Crime & Justice

Mixed reaction to Compton City Council vote to reinstate its own police department

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The city of Compton’s decision to bring back its own police force has generated a range of responses. For a decade, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has handled police services there. But the Compton City Council voted this week to end that contract.

A decade ago, here’s what the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department took on in Compton: a city with a rep for gang violence that its police couldn’t handle, a corrupt mayor’s office and a deteriorating quality of life for the middle-class African-Americans it used to attract.

Voters a few years ago decided against restoring the Compton police department, but the small city’s council has decided to reinstate local control over law enforcement.

Police Sergeant Robert Ladd says he’s happy about that decision. Ladd, now with the Garden Grove police, was a gang homicide detective with Compton police for 18 years. While he supports a restored local police department, he predicts that the city will do better if it hires experienced officers who know its people well – like the cops he worked with as a rookie back in 1983.

“I was 23 years old. And I’m a white boy from Orange County,” said Ladd. “It had to be taught to me. But I just came in there and it was an eye-opening experience for me, but I had experienced officers who’ve been there – this is what you can’t do, this is what you could do, this is what you shouldn’t say, this is what you can say – there was somebody there to show me the way.”

Not far from City Hall, Leroy Butts and friend LaTanya Kramer of Compton say they’re less optimistic about the city resurrecting its police force.

“If Compton wants to have their own police department again, they gotta build it from scratch,” Kramer said. “They don’t have the money to build it from scratch. They don’t have the money coming from Washington to build it from scratch. They don’t have the money coming from Sacramento to build it from scratch – and if they do a half-assed job, then they’re gonna be just like they was before – it’ll be all corrupted again.”

City officials say a new police department could be in place in about a year. A feasibility study informed the City Council’s decision to reinstate Compton’s Police Department. The report indicates that it would take about $18 million to operate a police force with 85 officers in the first year. That’s about a million dollars more than the city pays the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department now.