McConnor's Corner
A Stupendous Look At Chief Bratton
By Sean McConnor
Jan 1, 2003 - 5:26:00 PM

LOS ANGELES — Each day in office, Chief William Bratton of the LAPD is looking more and more like the Police Commissioner he was in New York City and Boston. Bratton assigns a captain to manage the department's war on gangs, he creates two bureaus (both which will be headed by civilians, one of whom is his former press aide in New York), and he announces his desire to decentralize the LAPD's command structure.

All this is well and good except for one thing: He is police chief not police commissioner.

The Los Angeles Police Department is structured to be managed by a Chief and the subordinates that he chooses with the concurrence of the police commission headed by a president (as its primary spokesperson), and the City Council, as the ultimate authority. The Mayor appoints the Chief and the commission members, so he is a secondary authority.

Chief Bratton has decided, apparently, that the current structure doesn't agree with his past management of police departments. He seeks to delegate everything to everyone, so as to allow him time for leisurely Christmas vacations and time to go to Israel and other speaking engagements. Meanwhile, the murder rate continues to go unabated throughout Los Angeles. Murder doesn't change its mode of operation (M.O.) like the Chief.

LAPD official photo
Bratton seems to think that decentralizing the force's command structure, by allowing division captains and commanders to handle complaints against officers, will alleviate the current distress that officers feel about the process. If a recent study, that Bratton quoted at the annual LAPD command retreat in Burbank, is correct, the officers are reluctant to do more than expected because they may be criticized.

Where has Chief Bratton been the last ten years? Did he ever hear of Rodney King and Rampart? Or has he ever heard of the backlog of citizens' complaints that Internal Affairs has that will take years to clear? Decentralizing the disciplinary process and handling it in-house has not and will not work. The citizens of this city have paid dearly with their lives, their property, and their tax dollars because of the incompetence of the process.

To make the LAPD function with civilian control like Chief Bratton obviously would prefer, certain things have to occur:

1. Take the complaint process away from the individual station houses and create a civilian review board made up of ordinary citizens.

2. Abolish the police commission and the office of Chief of Police.

3. Create a civilian Police Commissioner who would appoint sworn officers as chiefs of the various branches (patrol, detectives, etc.)

4. Hire officers on the basis of qualifications to do the job, not on a quota basis such as race or gender.

In the meantime, it would behoove the Chief to respect the current structure and utilize it to manage the Department rather than create his own quasi-official civilian one. He could also solicit his chief supporter, Mayor James Hahn, to assist in drafting changes in the City Charter to really implement the change in a Department that needs permanent change not a cosmetic one to suit one individual.

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