Majority backs new term for Bratton

Times Staff Writer

Whites strongly favor giving Chief William J. Bratton a second term at the helm of the Los Angeles Police Department, but his support is considerably softer among minorities, an independent survey of city residents has found.

Overall, 53% of residents said they support giving the chief a new five-year term, according to the survey conducted by the Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. But the survey of 1,600 residents, to be released today, also found views on the chief diverge sharply by race.

While 68% of whites support Bratton’s reappointment, fewer than half the minorities surveyed said they favor a second term for the chief: 47% of Korean Americans, 44% of African Americans and 45% of Latinos.


Many minority residents have not yet made up their minds, indicating the chief still has a chance to win their confidence.

His reappointment was opposed by 36% of African Americans, 28% of Latinos, 14% of Korean Americans and 10% of whites, with others saying they are undecided.

The Police Commission is to decide during the next month whether to award Bratton a new contract. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other civic leaders support Bratton’s reappointment.

“Today only 53%, a slim majority of Angelenos, support Bratton’s reappointment as opposed to the overwhelming support expressed by L.A. city leaders,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the center.

Overall, only 21% of residents surveyed opposed Bratton’s reappointment, with the rest undecided, Guerra said.

“The plurality of blacks, Latinos and Korean Americans support Chief Bratton’s reappointment,” Guerra said. However, he added, the “variation in ethnic support should be considered during the police chief reappointment process.”


Bratton, in his application letter to the Police Commission last week, acknowledged the challenge of winning over minority residents, who have traditionally mistrusted the LAPD because of a history of police abuses.

“I have worked tirelessly, and I believe successfully, to improve relationships between the Los Angeles Police Department and the many diverse communities of this great city,” Bratton wrote.

The commission will hold an April 30 public hearing on Bratton’s reappointment. The hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Department of Water and Power headquarters, 111 N. Hope St.

Guerra, an associate professor of political science and Chicana/Chicano Studies at Loyola Marymount, said the residents’ survey was conducted for the 15th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots.

The riots in 1992, which erupted after a jury acquitted police officers in the beating of African American motorist Rodney G. King, are widely seen by city leaders as a low point in police-community relations. The riots left 54 people dead and more than $1 billion in property damage.

Guerra, who also is a City Hall lobbyist and longtime ally of Villaraigosa, said the racial variations regarding Bratton’s reappointment may be explained by other results of the survey.

While job approval overall for the LAPD has been consistently high over the last 10 years, there have been disparities in views on reform efforts since 1992.

About 85% of residents surveyed believe that, overall, the LAPD is doing a good or excellent job.

A survey by the center in 2002 found that 54% of city residents believed that the LAPD had been very effective at imposing more discipline among its police officers, but only 40% of Angelenos surveyed believe that today, Guerra said.

Faith in civilian review of the department also has declined.

In 2002, the survey found 52% believed that reforms to provide strong civilian oversight had been very effective since 1992, compared with 40% today.

Bratton noted in his application that the department has “completed the major components” of reform required by a consent decree approved by a federal court after the Rampart police corruption scandal.

In its latest evaluation, in December, the Police Commission looked at how Bratton has carried out tasks including reducing crime, expanding the police force and reforming the department, and ruled that overall he “exceeds standards.”

One of Bratton’s biggest champions has been Police Commission President John Mack, an African American and respected former head of the local chapter of the Urban League.

Mack said last year that if the vote had been held then, he would have given the chief another five-year term. He has promised to provide an objective and thorough review of the chief’s record before making the decision on the chief’s tenure sometime in the next month.

With the chief popular among the city’s political leaders, it is unclear whether the survey will affect his reappointment chances.

The telephone survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, was conducted last month with “randomly and ethnically represented residents.” The project was part of Leavey Center’s long-term effort to study the effect of the Los Angeles riots and changes in ethnic relations, community attitudes, government and community action, Guerra said.

The survey found that Bratton is seen more favorably than his two predecessors, both of whom failed to win a second, five-year term. In 1997, 40% of city residents surveyed by the center supported the rehiring of Police Chief Willie L. Williams, and in 2002, 43% favored the reappointment of Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, now a member of the City Council.



Another term?

As Police Chief William J. Bratton applies for a second five-year term, a survey of Los Angeles residents paints a mixed picture of how he is viewed.

Position on Bratton’s reappointment . . .

Compared to support for Bernard Parks in 2002 and Willie Williams in 1997:


- Support: 53%

- Oppose: 21%


- Support: 43%

- Oppose: 34%


- Support: 40%

- Oppose: 37%

Views among selected racial/ethnic groups:


- Support: 68%

- Oppose: 10%


- Support: 45%

- Oppose: 28%


- Support: 47%

- Oppose: 14%


- Support: 44%

- Oppose: 36%

Note: Loyola Marymount University’s Leavey Center surveyed 1,600 Los Angeles residents by telephone March 23 to April 9. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Similar questions were asked in surveys done in 1997 and 2002.

Source: Loyola Marymount University