L.A. adopts less than third of post-riot police reforms

NATIONAL CLOSEUP

January 03, 1995|By Patrick McGreevy | Patrick McGreevy,Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Three and a half years after the Christopher Commission proposed sweeping reform of the Los Angeles Police Department, many of its key recommendations have not been implemented -- drawing criticism that city officials are not doing enough to discourage potential brutality.

Several key recommendations were folded into a 1992 ballot measure that became law.

But 65 other recommended reforms were not part of the ballot measure, and less than a third of them have been implemented by the city, according to a recent Los Angeles Police Department report.

Several of the proposed reforms are still under study or are opposed by the police, while others are in the process of being implemented, according to the report.

But the Police Department concedes that many of the reforms described as "in progress" are far from being in place.

For example, the department's report said a recommendation that video cameras be installed in patrol cars has gotten only as far as a pilot program in 36 cars. The department says it could cost $8 million to fully implement the program.

The police report also said the department is moving to implement a recommendation that police supervisors consider past complaints when looking into brutality complaints.

But the department's report also said that the issue is subject to "meet and confer" rules with the unions, and it said "little advancement has been made toward implementing this recommendation."

The blame is being spread broadly by community leaders and reform activists in City Hall.

Some of them say the failure to implement the reforms starts with Police Chief Willie L. Williams -- himself hired to replace Daryl F. Gates as one of the first steps toward changing the department -- and with Mayor Richard Riordan.

"I think there has been a lot of talk about the Christopher Commission report, but I'm not sure the city has been faithful to that," said City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents South Central Los Angeles, an area that was to have been among those benefiting most from the reforms.

Two weeks ago, the city's frustrated police commissioners announced that they were taking over the lead in monitoring the reform process from Chief Williams and the department's command.

"I'm dissatisfied that the department has not moved fast enough," said Police Commissioner Art Mattox.

Chief Williams, who initially promised regular public updates on the progress of turning the department around, repeatedly refused to answer reporters' questions Thursday on the reform issue and his performance.

There is no formal measure of Chief Williams' performance because the Police Commission is at least six months behind in enacting a Christopher Commission recommendation that the chief receive an annual review.

As a result, Chief Williams, who took over in June 1992, has not had a formal job appraisal for a year and a half.

According to the department's analysis, other Christopher Commission recommendations not yet in place include:

* The hiring of an inspector general by the Police Commission to audit the disciplinary process and monitor citizen complaints.

* The creation of a computer system to track officer behavior, including citizen complaints, use-of-force incidents, traffic accidents and other issues that might be cause for counseling or retraining.

* Transferring authority for investigating all citizen complaints of excessive force from police stations to the Internal Affairs Division.

* In-service training for all officers on issues that include cultural awareness and use of force.

* Key provisions of community based policing, including decentralized decision-making.

* Mandatory rotation of patrol officers every five years to create more diversity at police stations and give officers broader experience.

* Mandatory psychological retesting of officers during their career.

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