Thanks to the largess of some of Los Angeles' wealthiest residents, Police Chief William Bratton can rely on as much as $2 million in gifts to pay for advice on how to reform the Los Angeles Police Department.
Turning to private interests to help fund public police functions is part of a new, long-term strategy to augment the cash-strapped LAPD budget.
To that end, Bratton has relentlessly courted the city's elites, from homebuilding tycoon Eli Broad to moviemaker Steven Spielberg, often in the company of Rick Caruso, L.A. Police Commission president and a prominent local developer.
The largest donors to date are Broad, who contributed $100,000, and the Wasserman Foundation, led by Casey Wasserman, grandson of former Universal Studios chairman Lew Wasserman. Wasserman's foundation also contributed $100,000.
"The bottom line is, we want to see the new chief succeed," Broad said.
Five-figure donations have come from an assortment of other major donors, including Bruce Karatz of homebuilding giant KB Home Corp. The money is going to the Los Angeles Police Foundation, which is hiring the consultants. The foundation has accepted gifts from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and media mogul David Geffen.
The foundation has $325,000 so far, and pledges to date that will at least double that.
It's a technique Bratton has used in other cities.
The reason is partly practical, and partly philosophical, Bratton said. At the beginning of a new administration, people inside the department "are too encumbered by the day-to-day bureaucracy" to have time to lay plans, he said. Outsiders bring an objective viewpoint better suited to "propelling the organization forward," he said.
Speed is of the essence, Bratton said. A new chief gets a honeymoon -- a period of public and political goodwill to enact his program, provided he can move quickly. Consultants help ensure that the time is not squandered, he said.
Bratton also said the consultants' campaign signals an expanded role for private funds in the LAPD. In the future, he said, he hopes to use private donations for a variety of big-ticket items that are unlikely to be funded from the LAPD's current $928-million budget. These include equipping a crime-prevention and homeland security facility.
"Bill and I are having a lot of breakfasts, lunches and dinners," said Caruso, who added that he had introduced Bratton to Broad, Wasserman, Karatz, Robert Day of Trust Co. of the West, a financial investment firm, and billionaire developer David Murdoch. "And there is a whole host of others we have got on the calendar," Caruso said.
The purpose is both to introduce Bratton to "people who have been active," and to raise the starting grants of $2 million, preferably in $100,000 increments, Caruso said. A campaign to attract smaller donations from more modest donors will follow, he said.
Established in 1998, the nonprofit Los Angeles Police Foundation brought in $200,000 in 2002 through special events and donations, and its total assets at the end of last year were $707,695, according to the executive director, Karen Wagener, former head of the city's volunteer bureau.
Most of the foundation's spending has been for equipment not included in the city budget, such as trauma first-aid kits for police officers.
But now, under board Chairman Tom McKernan, president and CEO of AAA of California, the foundation has agreed to finance at least $1.5 million in consulting contracts at Bratton's request, more than double the organization's entire bank account at the end of last year.
The consultants have been selected, but will be hired only as the donations come in, Wagener said.
Most are former associates and colleagues of Bratton, and people involved in developing Compstat, Bratton's method of fighting crime in New York through tracking of crime patterns, rapid responses and holding police supervisors accountable.
They include John Linder, who has worked to develop Compstat programs in Baltimore and New Orleans; Robert Wasserman, who was a senior advisor on international law enforcement at the U.S. State Department and former chief of staff at the Office of Drug Control Policy; Patrick Harnett, a former New York Police Department chief who specialized in anti-narcotics initiatives; Bill Andrews, who was a member of Bratton's policy staff and the New York Transit Police and the NYPD; and Richard M. Aborn, former president of Handgun Control Inc., which worked for passage of the Brady Bill.
There are no blacks or Latinos among the consultants, and few Californians. Most are from Boston or New York, where Bratton made his name.
Linder's firm will hold the largest contract, earning $887,250. His work is largely related to setting up Compstat in Los Angeles. But Linder also will examine training, corporate identity and institutional culture in the LAPD.
Finally, Linder & Associates will examine LAPD officers' new weekly schedules of three days' work in 12-hour shifts, and four days' work in 10-hour shifts to see that they are configured in "operationally productive" ways.
Study Crime Reduction
Other consultants will study crime reduction strategies, and scrutinize a federal consent decree governing reform of the LAPD to ensure its requirements do "not become impediments," according to Bratton's proposal to the foundation.
The consultants also will look at how to shift people within the LAPD. This is especially crucial to Bratton, who wants the police force to do more without more money. Besides lowering crime, which will reduce the police workload, improving efficiencies at the margins is virtually the only means Bratton has of freeing up resources.
In addition to private funds, about a quarter of a million dollars in public funds have also been spent or set aside for consulting since Bratton took over the LAPD. Among other tasks, these consultants are doing work related to the replacement of Parker Center.
Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner, said a foundation augmented NYPD funding by about $30 million over three decades, mostly through corporate gifts. Among the larger projects it has undertaken is the recent outfitting of the NYPD's homeland security bureau through gifts from Goldman Sachs totaling $1.2 million.
There are about two dozen such police foundations operating around the country, modeled on New York's, said Pamela Delaney, president of New York's police foundation.
The LAPD has relied on private donors for a few special projects. In the mid-1990s, under former Mayor Richard Riordan, a group called the Mayor's Alliance for a Safer Los Angeles raised $15 million to pay for police computers.
But now, through the foundation, such efforts may play a much more consistent role, Bratton said.
Until recently, the foundation board was headed by Broad, also its leading donor.
Broad said that he is "a big supporter" of Bratton.
"Frankly, I lobbied the mayor that Bratton was the best choice," of candidates vying to be police chief.
Broad said he hopes the cash he gave for Bratton's efforts will bring, "a different culture at LAPD, a department that is respected by all the public that it deals with, a reduction in the crime rate, and the ability to have morale at a much higher level."
"I'd like to see them become loved by the public," Broad added -- "African Americans, Latinos, everyone. I believe in community policing."
Casey Wasserman said he wanted to help fund Bratton's consultants for similar reasons. "I got introduced to Bratton by several people, and got engaged in what he was trying to do."
Wasserman then described a dinner he had with Bratton at Broad's house.
He said he was surprised to learn "how deep are the problems in the Police Department," and then went on, in words lifted almost verbatim from Bratton speeches, to cite the need for detectives to work night and weekend shifts.
Asked if dependence on private gifts runs the risk of making the department beholden to private interests, Caruso said no.
"It's not about elites," Caruso said. "It is not about any particular group. The money we will raise will help the poorest parts of this community.... That's what I tell the people we meet -- that what happens in East L.A. and the Southside impacts their life."