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Lots of ham at chief's charity roast

LAPD's William J. Bratton takes some ribbing for his acid tongue, but nobody's beefing because it's all for a good cause.

March 16, 2007|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

William J. Bratton was the star witness to a crime against good taste Thursday during a charity roast in which Los Angeles political leaders poked fun at the police chief's frequent-flier tendencies and his penchant for riling others with his acid tongue.

Several of the jokes focused on Bratton's rocky relations with some City Council members, most notably the chill between him and Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who lost the chief's job to Bratton.

"Bratton quickly assessed the three greatest challenges he would have to face as new chief," said Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley. "It's gangs. It's Al Qaeda. And it's Bernard Parks."

Cooley said that Parks will tell you there are three kinds of lies: "Lies, damn lies and Bill Bratton's crime stats."

Such was the tenor of many of the jokes on a night when more than 1,000 politicians, businesspeople, lobbyists and police officers packed a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel for the 10th annual political roast, which is expected to bring in more than $575,000 for the American Diabetes Assn.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joked that his first meeting with Bratton was a little rough until he offered advice. "L.A.'s a big city, there are plenty of cameras to go around for the two of us."

Villaraigosa, who was roasted last year, appeared happy to be a roaster Thursday, noting that his police chief could improve his social skills. There were also quips about Bratton's reputation as a world traveler: The Times reported last March that he spent one-third of the previous year -- 125 days -- outside the city on personal and business trips to places including London and New York.

Council President Eric Garcetti said: "We do have solid evidence that the chief canceled his trip to Zimbabwe and Mongolia to be with us here tonight and he has postponed the press conferences he was going to have at 6:30 and 7:30."

The theme for the evening was how Bratton's shoot-from-the-hip comments have failed to endear him to many of the elected officials with whom he works.

In July, Parks led a group of five City Council members calling for a Police Commission investigation into what they said were the chief's rude and unprofessional remarks. Councilman Dennis P. Zine, one of those who complained, took the stage Thursday night to say that he and others have put any hard feelings with the chief behind them.

"The new police headquarters building should be named Bratton Center," Zine said enthusiastically. "Bill Bratton is the nicest, smartest, handsomest person we have ever known."

Suddenly, an old television clip of the chief appeared on a big screen behind Zine.

"They don't know what the hell they are talking about," Bratton groused in the year-old clip. The comment was made last year by Bratton to chastise Parks and Zine for criticizing the department's drug testing policy.

Bratton also took some grief from John Miller, a former ABC television news correspondent who was Bratton's top spokesman at the LAPD before becoming assistant director of the FBI.

Miller sent a videotape of a faux news report in which he spliced together questions he posed as an interviewer with old clips of Bratton taken out of context.

"Chief, you've been in L.A. four years now. If you had to make a short list of the people you've [ticked] off, who would you include?" Miller asks.

"The district attorney, city attorney, U.S. attorney, FBI, DEA, ATF, Sheriff's Department," Bratton says in a clip from a news conference in which he listed the agencies cooperating in a crackdown on street gangs.

Garcetti, whom Bratton rebuffed when asked to apologize to the council members, served as the master of ceremonies, writing and performing a song about the chief: "Puff the Magic Bratton."

A sample chorus: "He's hooked the crooks and cooked the books so now he can leave town."

Ticket buyers included several lobbyists and others who would benefit from being in the chief's good graces, but ethics experts did not see a problem because the chief did not benefit financially from the roast.

Before the event, Bratton said he was willing to change his sometimes abrasive ways based on assurances that those roasting him would do the same.

"I'd like to be the kindler, gentler Bill Bratton, so they promised me to be kinder and gentler," the chief said.


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