Appearing before the Los Angeles City Council, Police Chief Willie Williams defended his department Wednesday against a storm of criticism over a series of department crime documents, including one that suggests police stop and question more black and Latino men.
The reports, which include statistics on violent crime gathered during the past year, sparked criticism in City Hall and elsewhere in recent weeks partly because of the Los Angeles Police Department's initial unwillingness to release them publicly. Beginning last week, the LAPD has been gradually releasing the reports.
But the biggest furor of all arose over a seven-paragraph section in the crime report for the North Hollywood Division, which suggests that police should target black and Latino men because demographic information indicates that they are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime.
Williams said he was concerned about the passages regarding race but stressed that the document that included that recommendation, which was leaked to newspapers, was only a draft report and did not have the approval of the LAPD management.
The department does not support a tactic of targeting crime based on race, he said, adding that he has been working to change the attitudes among those police officers who do believe in such a tactic.
"Is it policy? Absolutely not," he said. "No ifs, ands or buts."
Nonetheless, several council members told Williams that they were disturbed that any members of the LAPD leadership would suggest targeting suspects based on race.
Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg called the North Hollywood report a "very scary document" and urged the chief to concentrate on changing the perceptions of LAPD officers.
"I'm satisfied that this doesn't represent the views of the Police Department," she said in an interview, "but I'm unhappy that this is the mentality of whoever was asked to author it."
Councilman Mike Hernandez agreed. "This tells me that we may have some leadership in that division who feel this way," he said.
In an interview after the meeting, Williams declined to name the authors of the challenged report or to release their rank. He said that as chief he would take responsibility for the controversy they created.
The draft report on crime in North Hollywood includes a section titled "Suspect/Victim Demographics." It states that based on demographic information and the 1990 census "it becomes apparent that two groups are responsible for a larger amount of violent crime than should be expected by their representation in the community. These two groups are Black and Hispanic. . . ."
The report also says that males "disproportionately participate in violent crimes 95% of the time. Females represent the other 5% of the violent crime suspects."
"It can be concluded that, because of the disproportionate share of criminal activity being generated by two segments of our population and one sexual category, there should be an equivalent increase in the proportional activity of law enforcement activity within those two populations," the report says.
The section concludes saying "field interview cards" should show police stopping and questioning more people within the "above two descent groups and the sexual category within the North Hollywood area."
Williams appeared before the council to discuss the reports at the request of Councilwoman Laura Chick, who said she was concerned that the crime reports were leaked to the media before council members even knew that such documents were being prepared.
"This is a dialogue that we should have had weeks ago," she told Williams.
Police officials initially refused requests by local media to release the reports, saying they include sensitive information about deployment tactics and crime-fighting strategies.
Last week, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky echoed the sentiments of several council members when he introduced a formal motion, requiring the LAPD to release the reports. The motion, which has not been brought before the entire council, would allow the department to edit out sensitive information.
Unedited versions of the crime reports, one for each of 18 divisions throughout the city, were reviewed last Thursday by The Times. Edited versions have been gradually released, beginning Friday.
The reports identify dozens of pockets of violent crime in the city and recommend an array of suggestions for cleaning up the problem areas. The documents also include information on the number of liquor stores and parolees in a community to determine if those factors affect the overall crime problem in the area.
The edited final reports do not include the recommendations to stop and question minority men.