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With new police headquarters, LAPD ends an era

The grand opening marks the move away from Parker Center and coincides with William J. Bratton's final week as police chief.

October 25, 2009|Ruben Vives

Dozens of uniformed officers, city officials, supporters and their families gathered downtown Saturday to celebrate the formal opening of the new -- and still nameless -- Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.

City Hall, across the street, was reflected in the new building's windows, while a gigantic American flag was draped over part of the structure's exterior, occasionally moving in the gentle breeze that gave relief to those sitting under the blistering sun.

The Los Angeles Police Department Band, taiko drummers and Mexican folk dancers provided a musical backdrop for the occasion.

"What a beautiful Los Angeles morning it is," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told those attending the ceremony. "Today we can celebrate great progress. Today we can celebrate the changes, perceptions and opinions of our Police Department."

Construction of the 500,000-square-foot building began about three years ago. A price tag of $437 million covers the headquarters complex and three related structures nearby. Funds came from Proposition Q, a public safety facilities bond measure approved by voters in March 2002.

The bond measure also provided money for the repair of some LAPD stations, as well the construction of new ones in Canoga Park, Koreatown, San Pedro and Boyle Heights.

On Saturday, Police Chief William J. Bratton, who is leaving the department at the end of this week, talked about the symbolically significant location of the new headquarters -- flanked on three sides by City Hall, the Caltrans building and the Los Angeles Times. He said those three neighbors represented the Police Department's obligation to serve the community, its requirement to cooperate with state, federal and county governments and its need for transparency to the media and public.

"You couldn't ask for a better siting," Bratton said.

Two things remain to be decided: the name of the building and the identity of a new chief to sit in its 10th-floor executive office.

In April, political and civic leaders expressed anger over a proposal to name the new headquarters after the late Police Chief William H. Parker.

Parker, who led the LAPD in the 1950s and '60s, is widely credited for cleaning up a department that was seen as corrupt and poorly run. But he has also been blamed for officers' discrimination against minorities -- especially blacks and Latinos -- and brutality.

The opening of the new building represents an end to that era, city and police officials say.

"Our department has emerged from that dark cloud," Villaraigosa said. "The weight of the past instead has transformed this department into the strongest, most well-equipped, most respectful force this city has ever seen."

Few members of the public attended Saturday's ceremony. But that did not dampen the enthusiasm of those who did.

Julie Hogenboom, 44, and Ray Raemancuso, 9, stared intently at a memorial for fallen officers and gushed over the headquarters.

"It's a cool new building," Ray said. "It's got a helipad!"

Inside the new auditorium, Elena Asucan, 41, a civilian employee with the LAPD, and her two children -- Melia, 16, and Alexander, 4 -- watched a time-lapse video of the building's construction.

"It's amazing," Asucan said. "One day it was groundbreaking; next thing you know you had steel beams, then glass all over it."

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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