Full Disclosure Expose: LAPD's Political Police

The following is a rewritten and expanded version of a speech given by Leslie Dutton before the Santa Monica Rotary Club. It has been supplemented with historical background material necessary, for the purpose of providing the proper context and perspective, for various references made during the presentation.


AAW/Full Disclosure Network?/Citizens Protection Alliance

DUTTON: You are probably wondering exactly what we won the Emmy Award for. Our multi-part series was entitled "L.A.'s War Against Terrorism". We interviewed Los Angeles Police Chief Parks the LAPD Union leaders and elected officials about how they, the LAPD and Los Angeles in general, were going to become part of the War on Terrorism.

This year, we have built on the original series of programs, which won the EMMY. Against the backdrop of the War on Terror, we set out to explore how a relatively new public policy in L.A. 每 selecting a new Chief of the LAPD, seemingly every five years 每 was working in these perilous times. We started by interviewing Mitzi Grasso, the President of the Police Union; Bernard Parks, the incumbent Police Chief; Jeffrey Eglash, the LAPD Inspector General; David Cunningham, a current Police Commissioner who was involved in the selection process; Al DeBlanc, a commentator on the Fox News Network, who served on the Blue Ribbon Selection Committee which developed the selection criteria; and Cindy Miscikowski, who is the President Pro-Tem of the Los Angeles City Council and Chairperson of the Council's Public Safety Committee. We also reached back in history a bit, by interviewing Edith Perez, who was the Police Commission President at the time former Chief Willie Williams was not reappointed to a second term; and also we interviewed Senator Ed Davis, who was the LAPD Chief from 1969 to 1978 and was known as "the father of community policing," an issue which was a big part of this whole debate, which culminated in the selection of William Bratton as the newest Chief of the LAPD.

Yesterday I interviewed Dennis Zine who is a 33- year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, a former Director of the Los Angeles Police Union for three terms, and who is now a City Councilman. These were all full, one-hour interviews, shown as "two-parters" on our Full Disclosure Network? programs. So you can see, this year has been a little busy.

This time around, several issues seem to dominate the new ritual of choosing a new LAPD Chief every five years: First, the 3-12 plan - whether or not the police officers should work for three days, for 12 hours and have the rest of the week off. Second, hiring: Chief Parks was criticized severely by all of his opposition because hiring was down. People didn't want to join the force, and they were blaming him for it. Third, Police reform: Parks was under fire for the reforms or the perceived lack thereof, at the LAPD. And at the same time, he was being criticized for his strict discipline process for errant police officers.

Also, "Community Policing" became a very big issue. You remember there was a lot of discussion about the senior lead officers, whether or not they should be in an office or whether they should be out on the beat in a car. Former Chief Ed Davis wrote an opinion article for the L. A. Times supporting Chief Bernard Parks. In the Full Disclosure Network? interview he complimented Parks for the way he was implementing Community Policing in Los Angeles. All this, however, was seemingly overlooked by almost everyone, in a mad dash to usher in a new Police Chief to match the tastes of the newly elected Mayor James Hahn.

How did we ever get to this point 每 "musical chairs for police chiefs" 每 when Los Angeles had previously had a long string of stable, long-serving chiefs, leading an LAPD widely regarded as one of the finest police departments in the country?

Well, there was something called "the Rodney King Affair" and its aftermath, and urban riot 每 some called it a "rebellion" 每 said to be the worst riot or civil unrest in American history. That's debatable, but never the less a commission was formed, as usual, to get to the bottom of the problem. Warren Christopher, a former L.A. Lawyer who later became Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, led this commission, which of course issued a Report. No, not the Warren Report 每 that was named for Earl Warren, former California Governor and U. S. Supreme Court Justice. This equally notorious report was known as the Christopher Report- and it advocated that things were wrong with the LAPD, that it needed 每 what else but 每 REFORM.

For a long time, LAPD Chiefs were selected following a civil service exam and had civil service "protections" to shield them from political influence. From the three highest scorers on the civil service exams, the Mayor appointed a new Police Chief, who generally served until he decided to retire. Politicians generally resented this independence from their control, but could do little about it. This civil service protection was actually put in the Los Angeles City Charter back in the 1930's, ironically during an earlier call for reform, to prevent corruption in the Police Department and to make it a truly "professional" force, not dependent on currying "political" favor.

But now, new "reform" was needed according to the Christopher Report And in reaction to the 1992 riots, which some felt the Chiefs of the LAPD had either somehow caused or failed to prevent, reform meant amending the Los Angeles City Charter again. This was accomplished by passing Proposition "F" which essentially erased the previous reforms that had been in place for over 50 years. Sold as a vital part of the solution to the LAPD's problems, proposition "F" made the Police Chief a political appointee of the Mayor, to serve one five year term and maybe be re-confirmed for a second five years. The Police Commissioners would have a hand in it 每 the Police Commissioners appointed by the Mayor. And then finally, for good measure, this last round of Charter Reforms also made the LAPD Deputy Chiefs into political appointees too, because the new Chief now can replace most of the incumbent Deputy Chiefs with people of his own choosing. Thus most of the top LAPD "command staff" changes when the elected Mayor and his appointees exercise their new found powers over their police department.

So following the 1992 riots, the Charter was reformed, Proposition F made the Police Chief a political appointee and the Police Commissioners who were appointed by the Mayor, would select the three finalist candidates for Chief. Previously the Mayor would pick the new Chief from the highes scoring candidates who took the Civil Service test. And then finally, this last round of Charter reforms made the Deputy Chiefs in Los Angeles political appointees, because the new Chief now can replace the current Chiefs with people of his own choosing.

Thus, our newest series of programs sought to explore whether or not the process for selecting, LAPD Chiefs had been politicized and if the entire Department was becoming politicized. After all since the most recent reforms have been in place, we had two Police Chiefs who have only served one five-year term, but were rejected from seeking a second five-year term.

There were many issues that made it impossible for Bernard Parks to serve a second year term as Chief. These issues were created by many forces in the City, not the least of which was the Police Union. Many of our guests told us 每 as a matter of fact, Commissioner David Cunningham made a very big point of it 每 that the Police Union's campaign to remove Police Chief Parks was very effective and that this was the first time that such a thing had happened. He even went on to say that the union spent an inordinate amount of money, estimated at around $1 million, for their campaign. You might recall that when Chief Parks made his parting address before the City Council, he warned of that possibility 每 not really just the possibility, it was more of an accusation - that the City itself had indirectly provided the money for that campaign to the Union. It was given to the union ostensibly for other purposes, but because that money was available in the Union treasury, it created the distinct possibility that it was used to unseat Parks.. So in the backdrop of politicizing the Department, and in the context of all this, Mitzi Grasso told us in our interview in January that the Union decided to endorse James Hahn for Mayor because he had pledged to implement the 3-12 plan where the officers work three days for 12 hours and have the rest of the week off.

Additionally, there were other issues, like the senior lead officer and community policing. Significantly, there's a vast difference in interpretation as to what community policing really is so we went to the source. We traveled to San Luis Obispo and interviewed former Police Chief Ed Davis, who's the Father of Community Policing. He told us that he felt that the way Bernard Parks was implementing community policing was just right, and that he was a fine man with great integrity. And you should know Ed Davis was one of the pioneers of the Police Union movement in the State of California. He was a representative in Sacramento for the organization's interest, and he was very upset during the interview that the Police Union was inserting itself into the management of the Department. In contrast, when we interviewed Police Union President Mitzi Grasso, she indicated that she felt that that was something in which the Union should play a role-- in the actual management of the Department. Thus, she felt they should have a say, in who the Chief should be. And obviously, they did. They were successful in their efforts to remove Police Chief Parks.

Dennis Zine and Cindy Miscikowski had some interesting comments with regards to the hiring problems that were and are still facing the City of Los Angeles-- for which Police Chief Bernard Parks was blamed. When I asked Chief Parks about the problem, he said that it was the Personnel Department of the City that was responsible for initial hiring and that it was largely a problem that he couldn't do anything about. Well, when I interviewed Cindy Miscikowski, she said that the Personnel Department and the LAPD had been at odds, and they didn't agree on how the candidates for police officers should be selected. She felt that the LAPD had the right to declassify or reject certain candidates. But yesterday when I interviewed Dennis Zine, remember, on the Board of the Police Union for three terms, an LAPD officer for 33 years, and now a Councilman, he was a little more specific. He said the real difference between the methodology in selecting candidates for officers between the Personnel Department and the LAPD was that the Police Department was rejecting the candidates that were being sent over from the Personnel Department. And I said, "Could you be specific? Can you give our viewers a chance to understand just why they were being rejected?" And he said, "Well, a lot of the officer candidates had minor arrest records that should be 每 that the Personnel Department felt should be overlooked, and the Police Department was adamant that they didn't want to hire people that had had arrest records." This is a very, very important point to explore fully. Not only have we interviewed the people from the Unions, from the Police Department and the elected officials, but I've also interviewed prominent civil rights activists such as Steve Yagman, who's filed 1600 lawsuits against the LAPD, and who claims that the LAPD is so rotten and so corrupt that it should be done away with.

All right. Now, you have a Personnel Department that's sending over candidates that have arrest records. Not felonies, but arrest records none the less -- that they felt should be overlooked. Now the Police Department was trying to implement reforms, reforms that are mandated by a Federal Consent Decree and reforms that were brought about because of the problems generated by the Rodney King affair. And you have a police chief that is trying to do the job he was told to do. He's trying to reform the Department; he's trying to discipline the officers: yet at the same time, you have a political element of the City that is sending him candidates saying, "You have to use them."

Let's look at how that decision was made: you have a new mayor elected with the support of the Union; you have a new Police Commission appointed by the Mayor, only one hold-over remained 每 that's Bert Boeckman. The new commissioners came on August of 2001. You remember what happened in September? September 11th. And then in December, Chief Parks decided to apply for reappointment.

I asked the new Commission President Rick Caruso a week ago today when I interviewed him, how he evaluated the Chief, considering the fact that he'd just been appointed, along with three other new commissioners. "Oh," he said, "We read a lot. We had to read a lot." I said, "Did you look over the evaluations of the Chief?" And he said, "Oh, yes, we read the evaluations, but the evaluations were done by a previous Commission." He said, "But you know, those evaluations are not really 每 didn't really give us a good sense of what was happening," and he said the major factor in his mind why he felt that Chief Parks should be removed was because he was Bernard Parks. Cindy Miscikowski made comments in our interview similar to that. So I came to the conclusion that it was a "personality factor" and not "merit" -- as well as politics 每 that ended Chief Parks career.

When the Police Commission makes a decision based on exposure only to a couple of months of working with a Chief, and essentially completely discounts the previous Commission's evaluations, it makes one wonder, what's really going on. Under the new Proposition "F" system, we have a five-year term that's renewable if the Chief decides to reapply. After the four years of Willie Williams, we started getting grumblings and dissent. After four years of Bernard Parks, we started getting grumblings of dissent. And now, we have a new chief: a new chief who will be into his first term when we have another election for mayor. What is going to happen with that election for mayor? Will things be "politicized" or are we going to be prepared on the local level to help fight the War on Terrorism?

Ladies and gentlemen, there are very serious public policy issues now facing the Los Angeles Police Department, which will impact, in effect, the entire region. Such as: we know we've heard from the Federal government of alerts that have been issued with regards to Middle Easterners coming across the southern border, which is very porous. We have policies: we have a Federal Consent Decree in place right now that restricts racial profiling. We have Special Order 40, which was implemented 25 years ago by Chief Darryl Gates, which said that the LAPD officers may not ask an individual if they are in the country illegally.

I posed the question to some of the guests I interviewed: What if 每 what if we get an alert from the Federal government, from the FBI, that there are suspected terrorists coming across the border, and they suspect they're in the Los Angeles Region, and our officers are prohibited from verifying whether or not these people are in the country legally?

The bottom line is this: Police Commission President Rick Caruso said, "We do not need to change Special Order 40. It needs to stay in place." In talking with Chief Parks last December, I asked him: "Do you foresee any public policy changes necessary to deal with the War on Terrorism, such as Special Order 40? He said, "Yes, Special Order 40 needs to be rewritten because of three major factors: One, there's a new international treaty that requires the LAPD or any law enforcement agency to report, to the Consul Generals of the various countries if a foreign national has been detained for more than two hours. Number two, there is the State law that was enacted that prohibited 每 that required or mandated, I should say, municipalities to cooperate with the INS. And thirdly is the jails. It is absolutely necessary that in the jails they determine whether someone is here in the country legally or not."

There's even another shocking aspect to this. When I interviewed Sheriff Baca and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and L. A. City Councilman Dennis Zine recently, I asked them about the Three Strikes law. They were complaining that criminal aliens who were coming to this country were being deported and then returning five, six, sometimes even ten times, and committing more crimes. It's called "recidivism" not just to the same old crime but to the same jurisdictions 每 our state and our communities. I said "What about Three Strikes?" They say, "Well, in the instances of the illegal aliens, they appear to be exempt."

We have a serious problem with how our governmental agencies are responding to all this. We have a lot of people at agencies not talking to each other, and it's time that they did. And that's what Full Disclosure Network? is all about. We bring the people to the table, we ask the tough and hard questions, and find out how they feel about it, what they think about it, and try to shine some light on it. And then we'll send our tapes to the appropriate people and hope they watch and maybe bring them together to work together to make our community safe.

If you would like to watch the Full Disclosure Network? program in this area, we're on Adelphia Cable, Channel 75 on Monday and Thursday nights at 8:30 p.m., and on Channel 77, we're on Monday mornings at 10:30 a.m. I've put some brochures on the back table with our telephone number and website address. www.fulldisclosure.net- where we list all the channels that carry the Full Disclosure Network? program. Or if you want to call us we'd be happy to send you a schedule. If you want to check our website, all the channels and the air times are listed there also, or if you want to call us, we'd be happy to send you a schedule. And I'd be happy to take some questions.

QUESTION: I've heard there are 9,000 officers in L.A. and that 1,000 of these officers are off duty on some kind of disability. What is that doing politically to the new police chief or the new mayor?

DUTTON: The question is asking about the 1,000 officers that are currently on sick leave, which takes away from the force. And they are trying to do something about that, but it's going to require negotiations with the Union, and they're pretty powerful, pretty powerful.

QUESTION: How is your program and organization funded?

DUTTON: Thank you for asking. Would you hand out the envelopes, please. We are a non-profit organization, and basically we have depended upon individual contributions and some small grants to this point. So there's a number of people in this audience today that have helped us over the years: John Bohn, Stan Johnson, and on and on. And we are really a grass roots movement, and, you know 每 do you know about public access? The facilities of public access are provided free. The FCC, in creating the Communications Act, provided public access for the people, and so we took advantage of that, and so the studio crew, the cameras, the equipment, everything is provided by the cable company, and then they provide cable channel time. And what we've done is really taken it to a science and distributed them and got it out, and it seems to be very effective and appreciated.

QUESTION: What's the consensus about the new police chief, Chief Bratton? Does he look like he'll be effective????

DUTTON: Well, the honeymoon is not over yet. He is definitely 每 people have high hopes for him, and it's going to be very interesting to watch because about two weeks ago he made a statement, which was quoted in the L.A. Times about the 3-12 plan. Now, here he is wanting and needing more police officers and already realizing the restrictions of the 3-12 plan when you have officers working three days and taking the rest of the week off. It definitely does have an impact. When he sought the appointment, he said he could do it with what he had to work with, but it's going to be a challenge. And all I can say is: Anybody that wants to be a police chief and have to deal with all these forces and try to work with what they've got in a city like Los Angeles, he needs a miracle, I'll tell you. We're going to keep our fingers crossed.

QUESTION: Has there been any analysis made on the 12-hour days,-- the last three hours?

DUTTON: They're starting to analyze that now, and I just read something in the paper the other day about that, so it's 每 they're really looking at it. But with the increased demands after 9-11, it's really a different ball game. And we don't have all the answers in yet.

QUESTION: Are you planning or have you ever thought of interviewing Mayor James Hahn?

DUTTON: Well, you know, I'd like to do that. It'll be interesting if he will come in, and I would like very much to do that 'cause we would like to have his perspective. And there's another fellow that needs a lot of help, too.

QUESTION: My son just applied for LAPD, he's been accepted, but he's not quite sure if he should make that career decision, given the LAPD today?

DUTTON: Wow. All I have to say is: Your son must be a very special person because it sometimes appears to be a thankless job. But we really need good people of good character, and I would just highly encourage him to do it and to go out there and do the best that he can to protect the people. But it 每 it's tough. We have all these competing forces operating in Los Angeles right now, as you can see when you watch Full disclosure. Are you suggesting that it might be difficult for him to get on the force, or whether he should do it at all?

QUESTION: Oh, he's got an invitation to start the Police Academy, but he's looking at smaller, outlying police forces, and he's just not sure if he's going to accept the invitation. He's trying to find out more information about the LAPD from real people who know what is really going on?

DUTTON: Well, I definitely support the LAPD, and they need good people. That's all I can say. And it sounds to me like your son is a very fine person. I think we need him.

CLOSING: On behalf of the Rotary Club, this is a table book on Santa Monica, and we hope you enjoy it. Thank you very much.

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