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Longtime Officer Picked To Head Los Angeles Police

AP

A three-decade veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who is credited with cleaning up the image of the scandal-plagued Rampart Division was selected by the mayor Tuesday to head the police force.

Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said he was humbled that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selected him to succeed William Bratton, who decreased crime and improved race relations during his seven-year tenure.

Beck would become the city’s 55th police chief if the City Council approves the mayor’s selection, as expected.

“Chief Bratton did a tremendous job of building a team,” Beck said. “My team is not the same as his, but it is made of the same cloth, and it will achieve the same results.”

Beck began his LAPD career as a reserve officer in 1975 and rose through the ranks to become deputy chief three years ago. He currently is in charge of detectives.

Bratton left the department for a private consulting job three years before the expiration of his second term. He indicated he wanted a department insider to replace him. All three finalists fit the bill: Beck, First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell and Deputy Chief Michel Moore.

Beck could be expected to continue two of Bratton’s priorities: community outreach and a crackdown on gangs.

“Chief Beck has been the leader within the LAPD in changing our approach to the way we address gangs and youth violence,” Villaraigosa said. “He understands that you can’t solve the gang problem just by locking up every kid, that we must use a comprehensive approach that includes tough enforcement while getting at the root causes that drive youths to gangs in the first place.”

However, Beck will face a challenge maintaining morale since the city’s financial crisis means officers are facing a contract that offers no pay raises.

In 2003, Bratton appointed Beck captain of the Rampart Division, which was struggling with fallout from a 1999 scandal that uncovered corruption in its anti-gang unit.

Observers credited him with burnishing the division’s image, in part by pushing community outreach efforts.

Beck’s appointment was welcomed by the police officers union.

Beck is “a consummate professional” who is well-suited for the job, Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber said in a statement. “We’re confident that Chief Beck has the leadership skills to uphold the LAPD’s position as one of the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies.”

Beck comes from a law enforcement family. His father, George Beck, is a retired deputy chief. His daughter, Brandi Scimone, is a patrol officer in the Hollywood area; his son, Martin, is in the Police Academy; and his wife, Cindy Beck is a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.

During Bratton’s tenure, the LAPD hired more officers; got a new headquarters; enacted court-ordered reforms and saw the end of eight years of federal oversight, and at least partially healed a breach with the city’s black community stemming from decades of perceived police racism.

The force has increased by more than 800 officers since 2002 to its highest-ever level of about 10,000.

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Bratton is still firm about the size of the LAPD

As he prepares to leave office, Police Chief William J. Bratton is battling the Los Angeles City Council one last time in an effort to protect what is considered among his most important legacies: increasing the size of the LAPD.

Bratton plans to address the council Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to dissuade it from following through on a proposal to halt hiring of new officers and suspend the department’s recruiting efforts until January. The proposal, which has gained considerable support in the last week, is aimed at helping to close the $405-million budget shortfall facing the city.

The suggestion that the city can save money by shrinking the Police Department hits a raw nerve with Bratton, who steps down at the end of the month. During his seven years on the job, he has pushed relentlessly to add officers to the department. Those additional cops, the chief has said, have played a large role in the LAPD’s success in reducing crime and improving community relations.

On Friday, Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said they were primed for a fight to preserve the hiring, which has brought the department, long known for being understaffed, to the largest size in its history.

The battle brings Bratton full circle. Months after becoming chief in late 2002, the council put the brakes on the LAPD’s extensive recruiting machine and rejected Bratton’s call to add hundreds of officers.

“These are the same mistakes they made six or seven years ago, and why we keep going through this, I just don’t get it,” Bratton said after presiding over his final graduation ceremony at the Los Angeles Police Academy. The mayor “gets it. If I could just convince the other 15 members of city government, I think the whole city would be better off.”

Bratton’s rhetoric has irritated some council members, who argue that he fails to recognize the severity of Los Angeles’ financial crisis and the need for every city agency to share in the pain.

“Which part of ‘We can’t afford to continue hiring’ doesn’t he get?” Councilwoman Jan Perry said about Bratton.

Some council members have been taken aback by the reaction from Villaraigosa and Bratton, saying the proposal only creates a two-month breather from recruitment so the council can reassess the extent of the city’s budget problems. Bratton warned, however, that once the council is comfortable in suspending recruitment, it will feel free to do so again in January.

If the council halts hiring for the rest of the fiscal year, the LAPD will shrink by more than 300 officers by June 30, he said.

The council “is intent on dismantling a lot of the gains that have been made, under the guise of the economic crisis facing the city,” Bratton said Wednesday during an off-the-cuff talk at an event hosted by Los Angeles magazine. At one point he said that the council, if it goes through with its plans, would be reneging on a deal with taxpayers to spend increased trash collection fees on public safety issues.

Bratton saved some of his harshest comments for the council’s newest member, Paul Koretz, who has called the hiring plan financially “unsustainable.” Bratton, in turn, called Koretz “totally naive.”

“What background does he have to make these types of decisions?” Bratton said. “He gets himself a seat on the Public Safety Committee and all of a sudden he fancies himself an expert on these issues.”

Koretz, who is no longer on the safety committee, said it is not naive to keep the city fiscally solvent. He defended his credentials, pointing to his two years on the state Assembly’s Public Safety Committee and 12 years on the West Hollywood City Council.

L.A. Councilman Greig Smith, a reserve police officer who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, reacted even more strongly, saying the comments about Koretz crossed a line.

“This is the kind of crap that got him fired in New York,” Smith said, referring to Bratton’s stint as head of the New York City police. “If he wasn’t leaving right now, I think he’d find himself in a fight he didn’t want. Mr. Koretz was elected by the people of his district to represent them and to speak for them.”

Villaraigosa is more than three-fourths of the way toward his goal of adding 1,000 officers to the LAPD, which has been hovering at roughly 10,000 officers. If he reaches his goal, the department would have 10,181 officers, according to the mayor’s office.

This year’s budget crisis forced Villaraigosa to retrench, hiring only enough police to replace those who leave.

Koretz has argued that city officials have become too fixated on the number 10,000. The department could stop hiring and keep just as many officers on the street by moving police out of desk jobs that could be filled more cheaply by civilians, Koretz said.

The debate comes as city officials are negotiating a new contract with the Police Protective League, the officers’ union. With those talks underway, the league has urged the council to stop police hiring before initiating more draconian measures, such as furloughs.

Because the department is ahead of its hiring schedule by 42 officers so far this year, the LAPD could still meet its hiring goals if recruiting classes resume in January, council members said. On its civilian side, nearly 1,000 employees have been forced to take 26 unpaid days off because of budget cuts.

The stormy relationship between Bratton and the council dates to their first row over police hiring in 2003. At the time, then-Mayor James K. Hahn wanted the council to approve funding for 320 new officers. When council members refused, Bratton accused them of going “missing in action” and jeopardizing the safety of Angelenos and police.

In two of the more memorable verbal flourishes, he said council members were inviting Osama bin Laden to attack Los Angeles and added in a radio interview, “Let them start attending some of the funerals of the victims of crimes.”

That was one of the few missteps of Bratton’s tenure, in part because council members were already attending and, in some cases, helping to pay for those funerals.

The chief ultimately wrote letters of apology to council members. These days, Bratton is quick to recall the showdown, saying he had a poor understanding of Los Angeles politics at the time. But he has continued to call out council members, sometimes by name.

When Councilman Bill Rosendahl voiced doubts five months ago that the city could continue hiring, Bratton responded by warning that staffing levels would drop in Rosendahl’s coastal council district. “It’s my obligation as police chief to tell it like it is,” he said.

Bratton dismissed the notion that his imminent departure has given him the freedom to risk burning some bridges to City Hall. However, he said he has advised those who are competing to become the next chief to avoid angering council members — at least for now.

“I’ve encouraged all my potential successors to basically keep themselves out of the papers,” he said. “I’ll do it while I’m here.”

By Joel Rubin and David Zahniser

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Legacy of America’s Top Cop

William Bratton’s departure has prompted accolades from within and without Los Angeles.

The departure of William Bratton has prompted an outpouring of praise unusual for a big-city chief of police. But Bratton, as top cop successively in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, became a hero to tough-on-crime advocates and police reformers alike. The most touching salutes have come from various quarters in Los Angeles, but liberal blogger Matt Yglesias and the conservative National Review had fond tributes as well.

How did Bratton do it?

  • He Listened to Cops and Communities Equally, say the editors of the Los Angeles Times. “Bratton had an unusual knack for understanding the histories and sensitivities, the needs and demands of Los Angeles communities. He could be refreshingly candid and colorful, calling people nitwits or knuckleheads, verbally skewering members of the City Council (but never the mayor), and he could at the same time court neighborhoods and defuse tensions.”
  • Diversified the Police Force, says the Los Angeles Daily News. “Bratton embraced the call for change and quickly set about enacting a series of reforms, such as requiring financial disclosure by gang and narcotics officers, banning racial profiling and improving training. “
  • Delivered on His Promises, and Moved On says “Jack Dunphy,” a pseudonymous LAPD officer writing at National Review Online. “Bratton’s primary goals as chief were to lower crime in Los Angeles and to extricate the department from the consent decree, both of which he accomplished. He leaves the LAPD in a far better condition than when he arrived, and for all my many criticisms of Bratton over the years, that fact simply cannot be ignored.”
  • Treated Minor Crimes Seriously says James Q. Wilson, author of the “Broken Windows” theory. “Bratton had the instinct to worry about minor street offenses even without the data, because it seemed right.”
  • A Mystery Worth Replicatingsays Matthew Yglesias. “One of the most important things in the world is trying to make public institutions work well, since the less-effective ones don’t just naturally go out of business the way corporations do. And yet unfortunately this isn’t something we know a great deal about.

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LA chief: More officers assigned to clerical duty

The Los Angeles Police Department is bigger than ever, but so far it appears a recent hiring surge has not translated into more officers on the streets, police Chief William Bratton said Thursday.The department has added about 700 officers since Bratton became chief in 2002—an expansion negated by the hundreds of officers filling clerical civilian positions that remain empty due to a civilian hiring freeze for all but essential civilian positions.

The net gain in patrol officers is “probably none at the moment,” Bratton told The Associated Press.

Bratton said the phenomenon of filling civilian positions with officers is mirrored in other departments across the country. But he appears willing to change the trend, saying he is compiling a survey to see how many officers who are filling civilian positions could be returned to the field.

The police officers’ union supports such a plan.

“What the public was told and sold on was they were going to get more officers on the streets,” said Paul M. Weber, president of the Police Protective League, the Los Angeles police officers’ union. “That’s not happening.”

The new officers have been funded by an increase in trash collection fees, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said the money would be used to put more officers on the streets.

Bratton and Villaraigosa announced on Monday historic levels of policing in the city—close to 10,000 officers—though the chief said his department remains one of the most understaffed police forces in the country.Bratton credits his officers for the city’s seven straight years of declining crime rate, though some city officials remain critical of how the chief is using his expanded force.

Last March, City Controller Laura Chick pointed out that too many officers were getting stuck in desk jobs and should be shifted to patrolling the streets. Other officers, including detectives and watch commanders, have been placed in two new stations and others are bolstering Bratton’s counterterrorism units, the robbery homicide division and the police academy.

Bratton said he expects more patrol officers to start working the streets toward the end of next year, as new recruits complete their training and probationary periods.

He also hopes to hire hundreds of extra officers through federal economic stimulus funds and said hiring civilians into his department’s clerical positions would potentially free up hundreds of officers.

Villaraigosa spokesman Matt Szabo said the mayor was delivering on his promise of more officers.

“The bottom line is the extra officers have given the chief the flexibility to attack crime hot spots immediately and that has clearly paid off,” Szabo said.

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Top Cop in Los Angeles Says Cutting Crime Pays

LOS ANGELES — Shrinking budgets are forcing such cities as Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and San Diego to make deep cuts, including to police. But Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton has grown his department with a persuasive argument about the financial costs of crime.

The city is adding 1,000 police officers, pushing its force levels in the Los Angeles Police Department to above 10,000 for the first time. Even as the city faces a more than $400 million shortfall for this fiscal year and next, the police budget — the city’s most costly department — is emerging largely unscathed.

[Safer Streets]

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made public safety one of his campaign planks and pushed through a tripling of the city’s trash tax to dedicate more funds to pay for the new officers. But the expansion of Los Angeles police, at a time when other city departments face cuts, is also the result of the chief’s argument.

Mr. Bratton has made a case that spending on his department returns financial dividends to the city. “The idea of being seen as an investment is that if you make it safe they will come,” he said.

For years, police chiefs have argued that safer cities are better for business, increase tax revenues and help property values. What distinguishes Mr. Bratton’s approach is the rigor with which he crunches the numbers, linking the performance of his police department to specific cost savings and new revenue.

Mr. Bratton, 61 years old, arrived in Los Angeles six years ago, after successfully heading up police departments in his native Boston, and New York. In Los Angeles, he has presided over a steady drop in crime. This year, the police department projects Los Angeles will have 374 homicides, down from 647 in 2002, when Mr. Bratton took over, and a level not seen since 1968. Aggravated assaults so far this year have declined 62.9% from 2002. Grand theft auto is down 31.1% from then as well.

Mr. Bratton said he thinks of Los Angeles’s crime reduction as money in the bank. “The cost of a homicide to the city is $1 million,” he said, citing an estimate based on a study by the National Institute of Justice that takes into account such costs as criminal trials and police salaries. “We’ve reduced the homicide rate by nearly 300 in six years,” he said. “That’s a $300 million annual benefit to the city.”

His department, he said, has a record of making arrests and winning convictions in 70% of the homicides in the city. Keeping a convicted murderer in prison in California costs about $70,000 a year when legal costs and other items are factored in. With close to 300 fewer homicides a year, that is about 200 fewer people “getting convicted and going to prison for murder. Multiply that by $70,000,” he calculates, and it leads to more than $13 million in reduced costs.

Factoring in declining property crimes, such as auto theft, he said, the savings skyrocket, covering the department’s roughly $1.3 billion budget. “The overall crime reduction in the city gets us close to my budget, so I’m basically cost neutral.”

Some question Mr. Bratton’s math. Rick Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, says Mr. Bratton’s numbers assume that policing is capable of controlling the entire crime situation in a city.

“Bratton has a view that police own crime,” said Mr. Rosenfeld, and that social and economic factors aren’t as significant. “There is a strong kernel of truth to the argument, but he takes it too far.”

Historically, he said, crime wanes during periods of economic growth and surges during economic downturns. “We haven’t had a recession since late 1950 in which crime did not go up,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “The one we’re entering is not likely to buck that trend.”

Mr. Bratton countered that, considering all the varying social and economic factors in Los Angeles, the city should be on the verge of a major crime wave.

“The traditional argument of economists, academics, criminologists, demographers is that crime is caused by the economy, unemployment, racism, poverty,” said Mr. Bratton.

He noted that in Los Angeles, unemployment has been rising for several years, and the city is home to a large group of illegal immigrants, many of whom had been working as day laborers in hard-hit industries like construction.

“But my crime is down,” said Mr. Bratton. “It’s been that way for two years. And I expect my crime to go down more this year.”

It is an argument that Mr. Bratton used to his advantage in budget negotiations. He pledged that with more funds for his department, he will be able to deliver even lower crime rates.

“If you’re a political leader, it is very hard to go to Bratton and say, ‘We hear what you want but we’re not going to give it to you,’ after he has made such a compelling case,” said Anthony Pacheco, president of the city’s police commission, which oversees the department.

Mr. Bratton’s argument has also won over much of the city’s business community. Tim Leiweke, chief executive of sports and venue-management firm AEG Worldwide, has co-chaired two campaigns for ballot initiatives that sought to raise revenue for both the police department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He said Mr. Bratton’s effectiveness in lowering crime in the city “had a huge impact on our decision to invest $2.5 billion” in a downtown entertainment complex that is expected to generate $30 million in sales taxes.

Historically, Los Angeles is one of the most underpoliced cities in the country, with a force of 9,700 serving a community of nearly four million, compared with New York’s force of about 38,000 serving a community of more than eight million. Yet efforts by past mayors to increase force levels have met with mixed success. Former Mayor Richard Riordan, in the wake of the 1992 riots, pledged to increase the police force, then at around 7,200, by 3,000 officers. By 1998, levels hit 9,800 but fell back as funding dried up.

The current increase is linked to a rise in the city’s trash tax pushed through by Mr. Villaraigosa, which has risen to $38 from $12 for a single-family home. Though other areas of the police department’s budget are facing reductions, such as money allotted for new vehicles, the mayor has pledged to ensure there are sufficient funds to hire new officers.

“The irony is that as we go into this economic downturn, we’re expanding,” said Mr. Bratton, “which is exactly what you need to do when the economy turns bad.”

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Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Has New Web Site

PORT CLINTON — The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office has posted its new, more user-friendly Web site.

The site includes quick references for criminal activity updates, news releases, and administrative contact information as well as online employment applications for the sheriff’s office.

Updated sex-offender registration information and Carrying Concealed Weapons (CCW) permit policies and procedures are also available.

Sheriff Robert Bratton and other administrative officials may be contacted via e-mail on the Web site, http://www.ottawacounty­sheriff.org.

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