UPDATE: Last of LAPD consent decree officially dismissed

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UPDATE 7:30 p.m.: At a news conference Thursday, Los Angeles municipal leaders said the nearly 12 years of court oversight – which led to many reforms – was good for the department and the public it serves. 

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said when the Rampart scandal hit in the late 1990's – revealing excessive force by gang officers – the LAPD was a different department.

"Our police department was a poster child of a troubled department," Villaraigosa said. "A prime example of how not to police a big city."

Now, after instituting 187 changes as part of an agreement to avoid a civil rights lawsuit, the mayor said the LAPD is a model agency that reflects the diversity of the city. And it responds to, rather than ignore, its critics.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that along with making the department more community friendly, the decree has improved public safety.

"We've become accountable, we've become transparent, and we've become more effective than we've ever been," Beck said. "Violent crime since the beginning of the consent decree has been cut by two-thirds."

Connie Rice, of the Advancement Project, agreed the LAPD has come a long, long way.  

"What remains to be done is probably the hardest stuff to do," Rice said.

  The civil rights leader also said she would like to see officers rewarded for spending time with community groups and leaders. Rice said she and other watchdogs in L.A. will be monitoring the department closely. 

PREVIOUSLY: A federal judge has formally dismissed the final remnants of the Los Angeles Police Department's decade-long consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In two short sentences, U.S. district Judge Gary Allen Feess released the department Wednesday from a transition agreement put in place in 2009 to ensure reforms made following a corruption scandal were kept in place.

The city was forced into the consent decree under the threat of a federal lawsuit.

The U.S. government alleged a pattern of civil rights violations committed by police officers that officials said went back decades.

The abuses came to light after the so-called Rampart scandal in which officers in an elite anti-gang unit were found to have beaten and framed suspected gang members.

The decree was entered into in 2001.

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