LAPD Chief William Bratton blasts LA's political culture

LAPD Chief Bill Bratton speaks at one of the many events marking his departure.  Bratton leaves as head of the department on October 31st to take a job with a global security firm in New York.
LAPD Chief Bill Bratton speaks at one of the many events marking his departure. Bratton leaves as head of the department on October 31st to take a job with a global security firm in New York.
Celeste Freemon/Witness L.A.

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A few weeks before he leaves his job, Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton has called the civilian panel that oversees the department “unnecessary.” Bratton ends his seven years as chief at the end of the month. Wednesday, he talked about his time as LAPD chief at an event sponsored by Los Angeles Magazine. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze was there.

Chief Bratton’s never hidden his frustration with the city’s political culture. He reiterated it before a small audience at a Melrose Avenue restaurant.

A Bostonian who was chief of the New York Police Department before he arrived in Los Angeles, Bratton said he prefers the way power works on his native turf.

“East Coast, it’s much more in your face, bloody your nose and then go out and have a drink. Here it’s basically, don’t have it out, hold a grudge and try to undermine each other at every turn. You know, life is too short, and get it over with, instead of this lingering payback."

The chief said that culture can grind Los Angeles city government to a halt.

"This city is almost a city that doesn’t work in so many respects and it’s frustrating. The New York minute – the reason that phrase is so appropriate for New York, things get done.”

Moving a step further, Bratton said he thought the five-member L.A. Police Commission gets in the department’s way. The civilian panel's appointed by the mayor to monitor the LAPD and hold its feet to the fire on reforms.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s an unnecessary layer of government once again in that back in New York, I reported directly to the mayor. I was the police commissioner, I was the chief of police all in one.

"I did not have the redundancy or the extra layer of government and oversight – no demeaning my commissioners, an extraordinarily smart group of people, but I would say maybe eight out of 10 Los Angeles residents if you ask about the police commission, they wouldn’t know what you’re talking about, yet the commission has phenomenal influence over the department and policies.”

Bratton touted his accomplishments: reducing crime, expanding the LAPD’s counterterrorism unit, hiring more women and minorities, and enacting federally-mandated reforms designed to end corruption and excessive use of force.

Here’s how the chief responded when someone in the audience asked about his first impressions when he landed in L.A.

“What surprised me was, one, just how big this city was, and two, how neighborhood-centric it was, that despite people moving around this city on freeways, people identify more with their neighborhoods than with the city as a whole. Other cities I’ve lived in – Boston, New York – while there’s great pride in the neighborhoods, they still think of themselves as New Yorkers or Bostonians."

The chief suggested that Los Angeles needs more civic pride.

The always blunt Bratton said he regretted lashing out at the city council for not paying for a bigger police force early in his term. At the same time, he railed against current proposals to address L.A.’s budget deficit by shrinking the LAPD.

The chief also commented on his relationship with Bernard Parks, the man former Mayor Jim Hahn ousted as chief to hire Bratton. Parks is chair of the city council’s powerful budget committee. In that capacity he’s sought to reduce funding for the LAPD. The chief said he set the record straight early in an early interaction.

“I made it quite clear that I was the chief of police and he was not, and since that time, while there've been many initiatives on his part to influence decision making that is rightfully within the realm of the police department and its police chief, I’m very comfortable that organization has moved forward."

Bratton said Parks' is part of that L.A. political culture that inhibits governing.

"The councilmember style – he is a micro-micro-micro-manager, and that type of management style slows everything down. You hire department heads to run their departments. Give them a budget then get the hell out of the way.”

Bratton’s leaves his job as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department on October 31st to join a global security firm based in New York.