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LAPD reforms provide example for other cities

August 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
For many years, the Los Angeles Police Department was embroiled in one scandal after another. Now it is widely credited with major reform.

It's been a long journey for the LAPD. Twenty years ago, it was criticized for the beating of Rodney King, but now, the department is much more respected by the community.

"The culture of the Los Angeles Police Department has been transformed," said Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of UCI's School of Law.

Chemerinsky says in 2000, he conducted a study of the LAPD and found low morale and a code of silence. But changes began under former LAPD Chief William Bratton.

"Chief Bratton's approach was very different," said Chemerinsky. "It emphasized community-based policing. He made clear that the kind of disciplinary violations, the excess of force, the racism of the past, would no longer be tolerated."

Bratton came on board when the department was racked by the Rampart scandal when more than 70 officers were implicated in misconduct. Bratton is now being called in to help quell British gang violence.

"I think Chief Bratton and [current] Chief [Charlie] Beck understand that while we have to protect, we also have to serve. We have to put as much effort into serving as we do the protecting," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

There is a stark contrast of the LAPD's rise compared to what is going on now in the Fullerton Police Department. It is dealing with protests after the death of homeless schizophrenic man Kelly Thomas, who died following a violent confrontation with police.

"Officers have to be willing to come forth and report misconduct by other officers. I think one of the questions when we look at the Fullerton department is, Do they have the kind of mechanisms that have been placed in the LAPD to prevent and uncover abuses of power?" said Chemerinsky.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles continues to become a safer city. Violent crime was down last year, and there were 297 murders - the lowest number in more than 40 years.


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