John Mack, Vice President of L.A. Police Commission
William Bratton, Chief of the LAPD
Andre Birotte, Inspector General, LAPD
Photos by Jason Lewis
Choosing the Next Chief
The good news is that Chief William Bratton is leaving a better LAPD than he found; on the other hand, some say the reforms have not been seasoned enough to stand on their own.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Assistant Managing Editor
Ask anyone and the answer will be the same: many believe that Chief William Bratton has turned the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) around, notwithstanding the federal consent decree played an important role combined with the strong oversight by the Police Commission and the Inspector General’s office. The size, scope and relationship between the Black community and the LAPD have undergone some meaningful change for the better. And while there are some who have taken a rather cautious approach especially relative to the lifting of the consent decree, others have given Bratton and the LAPD the benefit of the doubt inferring, “a job well done, keep up the good work.”
Speaking as one who has been in the thick of things, Commissioner John Mack was very complimentary about the Chief and his overall performance. “Chief Bratton’s departure represents a big loss (for the city),” Mack stated, “under his leadership the Los Angeles Police Department has really been transformed in so many ways, moving away from being an occupation force in the African American community to one in which a partnership and mutual trust have really become a reality.”
As one of the commissioners to whom Bratton reported, Mack and the other commissioners were directly responsible for the Chief’s performance. “I think Chief Bratton is a visionary police leader who is highly respected throughout the country,” Mack continued, “he has reduced murders and gang violence, and the relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and the African American community has turned around dramatically. And of course, he was committed to the implementation of the consent decree.”
The next person who assisted in the commission in managing the LAPD reforms was the inspector general, Andre Birotte who said, “On a personal and professional level, I’ll be sad to see him go. Transparency and inclusiveness have certainly been the hallmarks of his tenure and as it relates to our office, I think we’ve developed a very constructive working relationship which benefitted the city as a whole.” The inspector general’s office works independently of the police department. Birotte concluded, “So that’s why I say both personally and professionally, I’ll be sad to see him leave.”
Last month when she was interviewed, prior to the lifting of the federal consent decree, Representative Maxine Waters (D-33) was very firm in her remarks. She said, “The city of Los Angeles has a history of police abuse and overly aggressive police chiefs in the past that have caused basic distrust by minorities and African Americans in particular. They (LAPD) obviously have not satisfied all of the concerns of the consent decree and therefore any effort to dismiss or relieve LAPD of the consent decree would be premature.”
Her sentiments generally summed up the feelings of those who believe that the LAPD still needs an external ‘watchdog’, which in essence, is what the federal consent decree was. Despite the strong oversight by the Police Commission and the Inspector General, there are those who believe that eight years of oversight have not sufficiently erased LAPD’s tradition of occupation and brutality within the Black community.
SCLC’s president, Rev. Eric Lee was cautious in his reaction to the chief’s pending departure. “I think it’s unfortunate he doesn’t finish out his tenure because I think he’s done a respectable job and I believe he was a great asset to the department.” With reference to the lifting of the consent decree and Bratton’s leaving, Lee added, “I believe he indicated that he would be here to get it lifted and I think after that was done, he has accomplished what he was supposed to have accomplished.”
In announcing his resignation, Chief Bratton suggested that his replacement should come from within the LAPD. One of the chief’s command staff where a possible successor may be picked from is an African American, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, head of the Office of Operations, responsible for the department’s crime fighting efforts.
Commissioner Mack believes, “We should go for the best person,” inside or outside of the department. “It’s not a slam dunk for anyone.”