Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mayor Bradley called on him after the'92 Civil Unrest to lead the commission that sparked the LAPD reforms, which helped to produce the more community-responsive force that is in place today.

Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor

After the acquittal of the four police officers who were charged in the video-taped beating of Rodney King, a part of the Los Angeles community went up in flames. As a result, Mayor Tom Bradley called on former Secretary of State, attorney Warren Christopher to chair a panel to look into the causes of the civil unrest; it became known as the Christopher Commission.

Warren Christopher died peacefully at his home in Los Angeles last Friday of complications from kidney and bladder cancer, according to a family spokesman; he was 85.

Though he was a world renowned diplomat, locally Christopher is best remembered via his work on the commission that bore his named and its significance relative to reforms within the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Charged by Mayor Bradley to examine the structure and operation of the LAPD in the aftermath of the King beating, the commission, led by Christopher, held community meetings and interviewed elected and public officials, and residents, and issued a report of it findings.

According to the report some of the findings were:

There are a significant number of officers in the LAPD who repetitively use excessive force against the public and persistently ignore the written guidelines of the department regarding force.

The failure to control these officers is a management issue that is at the heart of the problem. The documents and data that we have analyzed have all been available to the department; indeed, most of this information came from that source. The LAPD's failure to analyze and act upon these revealing data evidences a significant breakdown in the management and leadership of the Department. The Police Commission, lacking investigators or other resources, failed in its duty to monitor the Department in this sensitive use of force area. The Department not only failed to deal with the problem group of officers but it often rewarded them with positive evaluations and promotions.

We recommend a new standard of accountability....Ugly incidents will not diminish until ranking officers know they will be held responsible for what happens in their sector, whether or not they personally participate.

The commission highlighted the problem of "repeat offenders" on the force, finding that of approximately 1,800 officers against whom an allegation of excessive force or improper tactics was made from 1986 to 1990, more than 1,400 had only one or two allegations. But 183 officers had four or more allegations, forty-four had six or more, sixteen had eight or more, and one had sixteen such allegations. Generally, the forty-four officers with six complaints or more had received positive performance evaluations that failed to record "sustained" complaint or to discuss their significance.

That commission's report remains inexplicably connected to Christopher and is a part of his legacy to the city of Los Angeles. Attorney General Kamala Harris tapped Christopher to be a part of her transition team, and on his passing, she issued the following statement: "The death of Warren Christopher is a deep loss for California and for our nation. Warren was the epitome of a true public servant, an esteemed leader who possessed grace, intellect and wit. His passion for serving his country and his achievements in public service, were gifts to all of us. This is also a personal loss and I will miss his cherished friendship and counsel."

His work will live on locally, nationally and internationally.

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