Bradley Struggles to Overcome His Anti-LAPD Image

Times Staff Writer

Shortly after the 1965 Watts riots, ex-police officer and then-Los Angeles City Councilman Tom Bradley faced his former boss and declared that charges of police brutality made after the historic uprising should be closely examined, "for the benefit of the general public."

But an angry Police Chief William H. Parker was not buying Bradley's argument. Glaring at Bradley during a post-rioting council inquiry, Parker shot back, "I can't accept that. I think you are trying to pin (the riots) on the police. I'll go to my grave thinking this was your intention."

Parker died the next year after several more clashes with Bradley, a retired police lieutenant. But two decades later, the distrust voiced by the powerful chief remains an integral part of an anti-LAPD image that Bradley, now Los Angeles mayor, has been unable to totally shake.

A string of political foes from former Mayor Sam Yorty in 1969 to mayoral challenger John Ferraro last year have painted Bradley as anti-police. Now Republican Gov. George Deukmejian is picking up the theme, strongly implying in TV commercials that Democratic nominee Bradley is soft on crime.

A Times examination of Bradley's record shows that since becoming mayor in 1973, he has been neither a consistent champion nor a consistent foe of the LAPD--although police officials themselves argue that he is no friend.

Bradley has not always bowed to LAPD's budget requests, but neither has he tried to eliminate essential police programs. And, when such forces as tax-slashing Proposition 13 in 1978 squeezed city coffers, Bradley moved to protect the LAPD, cutting other city programs, such as libraries and parks, first.

"The fact of the matter is the (Police) Department has fared quite well budgetarily at the same time other departments faced many years of emasculated budgets," said City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, a Bradley ally.

And while Bradley often vetoed council attempts to add more officers, he was the point man on two controversial ballot measures to finance a boost in the size of the police force by raising taxes. Voters overwhelmingly rejected both measures.

Despite those two election losses, more officers are now assigned to street duty than at any time since Proposition 13, according to city figures. In fact, the 5,270 street officers authorized for the 1986-87 fiscal year exceeds the 5,217 authorized in 1977, the year before Proposition 13. Today's total authorized strength of 7,100 officers, though several hundred fewer than the 7,459 when Bradley became mayor in 1973, is augmented by hundreds of civilians now performing jobs once held by sworn officers, largely through the mayor's efforts.

As mayor, Bradley himself steered clear of strong public criticism of the LAPD during such controversies as the police shooting in 1979 of housewife Eulia Love, killed by two officers as she brandished a butcher knife; the abuses, including spying on private citizens, of the since-disbanded Public Disorder Intelligence Division, and a flap over Chief Daryl F. Gates' remark in a Times interview that use of certain police chokeholds is more risky on blacks than on "normal people."

While often praising the department as the best in the country, Bradley also has been openly skeptical about certain practices and budgetary requests. The mayor has repeatedly called for more street officers and fought against expanding the ranks of police brass. He also acted to reduce certain police pension benefits.

Viewed With Suspicion

As a result, despite his police background, Bradley is viewed with deep suspicion by many LAPD personnel from rank-and-file officers to Gates, Parker's former driver and bodyguard.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League--the police union--has endorsed Deukmejian, largely as a reaction against a protracted pay dispute between the union and the city. The union also backed Deukmejian for governor over Bradley in 1982, while in mayoral elections it has either not endorsed Bradley or remained neutral.

"I wouldn't say he is an enemy of the police," said George Aliano, league president, of Bradley. (But) we don't see him taking any kind of active role (to help the LAPD) . . . (even though) he always uses that he's a retired lieutenant (in his campaigns)."

Bradley curtly dismisses the league's Deukmejian endorsement as selfishly motivated.

"Their endorsement (of Deukmejian) is not going to mean a damn thing," said Bradley with disgust in his voice. "And it has not meant anything in the past."

Praises Deukmejian

Gates, who has called Bradley a "lousy mayor" and has toyed with running against him, is officially neutral. But in a glowing letter to Deukmejian last May, Gates wrote, "My admiration for you and for the job you are doing as governor of California is the highest. . . . George, I could go on and on and on in praising you and your dignified, stable, aggressive, common sense leadership."

Gates declined to be interviewed for this article.

This year, Bradley is presenting a strong law-and-order image--coming out publicly for the death penalty, touting his support for a high-tech fingerprinting system, taking a tough line against drug abuse and proposing a 100-officer increase in the force.

But in a mini-controversy within the campaign, Bradley commercials citing his support for a school drug abuse education program have been criticized by Deukmejian's supporters as misleading. Recent Deukmejian commercials say that Bradley opposed special funding for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. The mayor's campaign has protested that Bradley supports DARE, but feels that it should be financed by money already in the department's operating budget.

Bradley is counting on the drug abuse issue to sharply separate himself from Deukmejian. Citing his more than 21 years on the police force, the mayor has accused Deukmejian of ignoring the fight against illegal drug use.

Governor Ahead in Poll

A Los Angeles Times Poll, however, showed last month that, by a slim margin, Deukmejian is viewed as the candidate "who would do the best job of controlling drugs." On other questions, The Times poll has shown that Bradley this year, as in 1982, maintains a slightly stronger image than Deukmejian on overall crime-fighting issues. Deukmejian--a former state attorney general and author of capital punishment and prison sentence legislation--is seen, however, as far stronger on the death penalty and judicial selection issues.

"People know by my record, of the two candidates running in this election, I'm the one who spent 21 years on the streets of this city fighting crime," Bradley said in an interview. "The governor has never done a day of law enforcement work in his life. And I think any attack which he makes (that shows) me hostile to police officers is just not going to be credible."

To his critics, it is obvious why Bradley's law-and-order image fails to outshine Deukmejian's, despite the mayor's police officer background. Former Chief Ed Davis, for one, said that Bradley bears a grudge against the LAPD because, as a black, he could not rise above the rank of lieutenant despite an exemplary record. The grudge, Davis said, is reflected in Bradley's approach to LAPD policies. (Parker eliminated those unwritten segregation policies after Bradley retired.)

"There is no doubt that Tom Bradley set himself up as the enemy and the critic of the Police Department," said Davis, an academy classmate of Bradley's in 1940 and now a Republican state senator. "You can imagine a bright guy like Tom, that just because he was not white he could not get promoted. You'd have to have something wrong with you if that didn't affect you.

'An Unmitigated Disaster'

"He has been mayor for 13 years; 13 long years and he's been the (LAPD's) father. He never has smiled at his child, never patted his child on the back or ever talked to his child. So as a leader of a police department, Tom Bradley is an unmitigated disaster."

Bradley protests that he is a strong supporter of the department and denies bearing any lingering resentment.

"Never. I've heard Ed Davis and some others say that they think I still bear a grudge . . . but I never had time for that kind of hostile attitude," Bradley said. "I just keep pushing for changing things without getting mad at whoever was the perpetrator."

Bradley's supporters credit the mayor with using his influence, police experience and Police Commission appointees to help shepherd the LAPD through some rough times.

"There's been a significant improvement in the Los Angeles Police Department and it is in overwhelming part due to the attention given by Mayor Bradley," said City Councilman Marvin Braude. Braude said Bradley brought to the mayor's office "an intimate knowledge of how the Police Department works (and had) a willingness to immerse himself in all the details of significant policy decisions."

Understands View of Brass

A former Bradley commissioner who asked not to be named said that anybody "would have to be out of their minds" to believe that the mayor is anti-police. But the former appointee added that he understands why the LAPD brass does not trust Bradley.

" 'How much do you really want to help?' " said the former commissioner, is an unwritten litmus test applied by the LAPD. "No one wants to hurt (the department). Some just want to help it more than others."

Yaroslavsky, who also has been tagged anti-police, said that while disagreeing with Bradley on some LAPD-related issues, "It's a total fabrication on the part of anybody to suggest that the mayor has undermined the Police Department.

"Those are the same critics who will accuse any public officer who ever tries to criticize anything about the department to question their loyalty to God and to country," Yaroslavsky said.

The Bradley/LAPD record dates from Bradley becoming a patrol officer in 1940. He retired from the force in 1961 as its first black lieutenant. And, ever since he entered politics with his election to the council in 1963, he has kept his eye on the department.

A Vocal Critic

As the city's first elected black councilman, Bradley quickly became one of the department's most vocal critics. While sometimes questioning police attitudes toward minorities, he carefully avoided painting the LAPD as universally bigoted. Nor did he openly complain about being a target of racial attacks while he was an officer.

In June, 1965, two months before the Watts riots, however, Bradley said that "some officers are bigoted. It is not a majority, but a small minority. I believe there is obvious segregation in the Los Angeles Police Department."

Bradley was particularly critical of police tactics during the Watts riots. Months after the uprising, he openly questioned why warrantless officers were searching homes in minority areas for looted goods. Significantly, Sam Williams, one of his top political advisers and formerly an aide to the McCone Commission that investigated the Watts riots, was Bradley's first appointee to the Police Commission.

The following March, Councilman Bradley was still a Parker critic, refusing, for example, to support a council resolution praising the chief for establishing "a pattern of realistic human relations in all aspects of community life. . . . "

As he would continue to do later as mayor, Bradley sought stronger civilian control of the LAPD, tightened use of firearm policies and insisted on investigations into controversial police shootings of minorities.

Proposal Defeated

As a councilman, Bradley was unable to win support for a City Charter amendment to make it easier for the mayor and City Council to fire the police chief. As mayor, in 1981, Bradley managed to get such a proposal on the ballot, but it was defeated.

Most of Councilman Bradley's forays into police policy-setting were opposed by his colleagues. In addition to Parker, Bradley also found himself at odds with Yorty-appointed police commissioners who Bradley was convinced were merely "rubber stamps" for chiefs Parker, Tom Reddin and Davis.

Elected mayor in 1973, Bradley sought to erase the obstacles he had met as a councilman, explaining in a recent interview:

"Every chief that anybody around here can remember would simply call over or send over a message or come and tell the mayor what he wanted--and got it," Bradley said. "The chiefs of police in this city have been very powerful. Public support for them has been such that they could make their demands and get away with them. They would threaten, intimidate where necessary.

"I have simply refused to buckle under pressure and intimidation. I have given them every resource they needed, from computers to various automotive and other technical equipment, that they needed to do a more effective job.

'Improper Requests'

"But I have refused to give them what I consider to be the improper requests that they made.

"I've had chiefs ask for submarines, for tanks, for fixed-wing aircraft," Bradley said, repeating a favorite litany of what he believes are ridiculous requests. "When we had a reduction of our funds under Proposition 13, we were still (paying) police officers to play in the band . . . almost full time . . . and I said this is a luxury we can no longer afford. Four years in a row, the council overrode my veto and put that money back.

"Finally, the council got the message and they joined me in denying the funds," Bradley said with a smile. "And, you know, the band plays as I said they would, using volunteers."

There were, however, less frivolous budgetary requests sought by either the department or the City Council that Bradley did not embrace. Bradley for years opposed the addition of community relations officers and money for the Public Disorder Intelligence Division. In most instances his vetoes of additional officers were upheld by the council.

"The council could always add more or put more in the budget if they could find a means to do it," Bradley said. "They haven't."

Davis Sees Difference

In response, Davis denied that the Yorty-era commissioners would not question department policies. But Davis said a clear difference between the Yorty and Bradley appointees did exist.

"Yorty and his commission were essentially people who said, 'We want to have a crime-free city; what can we do to help you?' " said Davis, who served under both mayors. "(Bradley) appointed high-quality commissioners, but they came in every week with something new to pick on. . . . We never seemed to do anything right; we never got any credit or help. We were always dissected, turned over and looked at.

"The difference between Yorty and Bradley (is) day and night and it's still night."

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