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New York Post

 

Bratton's LA Record Is Good News For New York

December 10, 2013

By Charles Upton Sahm

New Yorkers remember Bill Bratton’s stint as NYPD commissioner from 1994 to ’96, when murder was cut in half. But his tenure as chief of the LAPD from 2002 to 2009 was even more impressive and provides insight into how he’ll police Gotham in 2014.

In Los Angeles, Bratton implemented many of the same innovations that worked so well in New York. He devolved power to precinct commanders and held them accountable via a new CompStat system. He targeted resources to neighborhoods that needed them the most, and added 900 cops to the force.

But the most important thing Bratton did was change the culture of the LAPD.

The police were despised by the residents of Los Angeles’ poor, minority communities — and, with good reason: The LAPD had become a sort of paramilitary force, with helicopters, machine guns, even tanks. When gang violence erupted, it would rush into a community and then quietly retreat a few days later.

Police-community relations deteriorated further with the Rodney King incident and the ensuing riots. In the late ’90s, the Rampart scandal erupted, with dozens of officers in the anti-gang division found to be involved in corruption and abuse. The Justice Department placed the LAPD under federal oversight, alleging a “pattern-and-practice of police misconduct.”

When Bratton arrived, police morale and community relations were at record lows, and minority residents greeted him with a great skepticism. But he won their trust by spending his first few months meeting with community leaders and listening to their concerns.

He walked the most crime-ridden blocks and talked to the residents to learn what they thought the LAPD could do to improve life in their neighborhoods. He held monthly town-hall meetings. He brought local leaders in to observe CompStat meetings to improve transparency.

Bratton created an LAPD that is more professional and uses deadly force far less often — indeed, at the lowest rate since records started in early ’70s. The LAPD also now looks more like the community it serves, having increased the number of black, Latino and women police officers. It is now a majority minority force, and improved procedures have greatly reduced corruption.

Bratton also strategically targeted certain neighborhoods for special attention. Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, for years, the nation’s largest homeless encampment and open-air drug market, is a case in point.

The commissioner stepped-up law enforcement and improved social outreach. The LAPD dismantled the leadership of the gang that controlled drug sales in the area; began to enforce a new ordinance that bans sleeping on the sidewalk during the day; and added 50 officers to help target “broken windows” crimes like littering, property defacement and theft.

Bratton also got the city to improve sanitation and street lighting. Police officers began working hand-in-hand with social workers to help the truly homeless — most of them mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol — get the services they need.

Bratton’s community-oriented style of policing generated impressive results in Los Angeles. Not only did violent crime drop by 54 percent but the reputation of the police improved dramatically. A 2009 Harvard study found that 83 percent of Angelenos, including more than two-thirds of blacks and Latinos, said the LAPD was doing a good or excellent job. A 2011 Los Angeles Times survey confirmed these figures.

Right before Bratton left Los Angeles, he cut the ribbon to a brand new police headquarters. The old, fortress-like building was shut off from the public with fences and a large parking lot. The new one is right on the street and faced with glass — a symbol of the sense of transparency and community service that epitomizes the new LAPD.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has done a remarkable job bringing crime down to almost unimaginable lows over the past 12 years; Bratton has a hard act to follow. Hopefully, he can repeat his Los Angeles story and keep crime going down while at the same time improving police-community relations.

Original Source: http://nypost.com/2013/12/09/brattons-la-record-is-good-news-for-new-york/

 

 
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