LAPD transformed under Chief Bratton's tenure

Listen to story

Download this story 1.0MB

The Los Angeles Police Department that Chief William Bratton leaves behind is not the one he took over seven years ago.

KPCC’s Molly Peterson has a look at Bratton’s legacy.

["Chief will you raise you right hand. I William Bratton do solemnly swear." "I William Bratton do solemnly swear..."]

Molly Peterson: Bratton told KPCC he sees himself as a transformative change agent, a view seconded by civil rights lawyer and Southern California Public Radio board member Connie Rice. Rice says Bratton is one of just two such change agents in the LAPD’s history.

Connie Rice: The first was William Parker, who transformed the department in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. And the second is William J. Bratton.

Peterson: In 2002, Bill Bratton said he wanted to cap his career by cleaning up the police department and cutting crime in L.A. Crime rates have dropped each year since then. Bratton relied heavily on maps and data to make that happen. He gave his commanders more responsibility. But Rice says Bratton showed cops that responsibility came with accountability.

Rice: He fired two metropolitan officers. Metropolitan is like the pope and the Vatican. They are the highest level of specialized unit in the LAPD. They’re untouchable. Chief Bratton established that they had lied. He fired them. Nine months after that happened, people were still talking about it around the water cooler.

Peterson: In his first term, Bratton vowed to work well with a federal overseer watching LAPD for civil rights violations. Last week, three years into his second term, a judge released LAPD from that burden. The job Bratton did to improve the LAPD helped build trust with Latinos and African-Americans in Los Angeles – including a West Adams man named Bobby who called KPCC to talk to the chief.

Bobby: I’ve experienced Chief Davis, Chief Gates, and Parks, and I feel strongly about how oppressive I felt the police department was here in L.A. However, during your tenure I saw a major change.

Peterson: It wasn’t all roses. Bratton admitted a yearlong crackdown on Skid Row moved homeless and mentally ill people around, but didn’t get them off the streets. And a Bratton endorsement in an election didn’t always bring a candidate victory.

That was true in the recent L.A. city attorney race. Bratton’s man, Jack Weiss, lost. Bratton did improve ties to other law enforcement agencies. Connie Rice points to "Summer Night Lights," the anti-gang project for Bratton and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Rice: LAPD has traditionally been so arrogant they don’t even talk to other police departments. But Sheriff Baca and Chief Bratton became partners.

Peterson: Rice says the LAPD has lessened racial tensions. Still, the American Civil Liberties Union says the city’s own data reflect lingering concerns about racial profiling by cops. Seven years ago, here’s what Bratton told those who challenged him.

William Bratton: I’m not afraid of being looked at. I’m not afraid of being criticized, as long as that criticism is well intended and focused.

Peterson: Bratton says he hopes the next chief can build on his success. Community leaders say they hope Bratton’s successor shares his attitude – and his skills.