After the 1965 Watts riots, the McCone Commission recommended the creation of an office of inspector general made up of civilians and Los Angeles police officers who would operate outside the regular LAPD chain of command. It would have handled all civilian complaints against officers, bringing credibility to the process, and it would have reported directly to the police chief.
It was a good idea. It was never implemented.
In 1991, the Christopher Commission also reviewed the process of citizen complaints against officers. It suggested, among other things, the establishment of an office of inspector general within the Police Commission, with responsibility to audit and oversee the disciplinary process, and to participate in the adjudication and punishment of the most serious cases.
Until now, the idea has suffered much the same fate as that McCone Commission proposal: another good plan that was never put in place. Now, on April 11, the voters will have a say in the matter. Charter Amendment 3 would create the civilian post at minimal cost to the city.
The amendment is supported by Mayor Richard Riordan and City Council members Marvin Braude and Laura Chick. The Police Protective League opposes the idea. However, wrongly accused officers would benefit by being cleared by a body outside the LAPD.
We like Amendment 3 because it could also help advance reform process within the LAPD by through periodic public reports on what is happening within the department, and on which things aren't happening. It's a good idea whose time has finally come.