Car 54, Where are You?

Unless and until we return the policing of Los Angeles to the people and its police chief we are doomed to continue the degradation and downward spiral in the “Quality of Life” we are experiencing here in San Pedro and across most of LAPD’s jurisdiction.

Most people today have forgotten that prior to 1992 the LAPD Chief of Police had open-ended tenure under civil service protection. Today the Chief is appointed by our Mayor. The Chief serves at the Mayor’s pleasure and can be fired at any time by our politically driven Mayor. In blunt terms, the Chief is the Mayor’s puppet and must follow his will or lose his job.

In a city that allows its residents to have a direct say in their city attorney and controller, it makes sense to elect the head of the city’s largest and most visible agency to the same level of scrutiny.

The police chief had open-ended tenure under civil service protection until shortly after the riots in Rodney King in 1992, when voters approved Charter Amendment F. The change was a crucially important recommendation of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, better known as the Christopher Commission, which examined the LAPD after the 1991 Rodney King incident.

Under the civil service process, the police chief answered to a panel of five bosses rather than the mayor and could not be fired without cause. Under Charter Amendment F the police chief was limited to a five-year term, renewable only once by the civilian Police Commission.

Charter Amendment F made the LAPD chief directly accountable to the Police Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, thereby giving the mayor the ability to summarily fire the chief at will.

For years Los Angeles voters have supported the election of the county sheriff, and many previous sheriffs have been rewarded with reelection because the people were satisfied with their performance. In 1992, after Charter Amendment F passed and before Chief William Bratton came on board, the LAPD had two one-term chiefs whose performance was substandard.

Very few positions in Los Angeles have more power and direct impact on Los Angeles residents than the police chief. It is one of the highest-profile positions in the city, and quality of leadership and policy decisions directly impact the everyday safety and quality of life of residents. Now, under the current structure, voters do not get to choose what type of law enforcement style the city should follow.

So, I ask, “car 54, where are you?” The lack of response we receive from Harbor Division alerted to crimes in progress is appalling. Every day citizens in peril are ignored by 911 operators or are told when calling the LAPD’s Harbor Division desk directly that they are too busy to respond, and someone will be out to take a report tomorrow.

With the Mayor’s current agenda that includes helping everyone in Los Angeles except those that pay taxes for our basic services, you and I are getting the short end of the stick.



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