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Bratton gets support for a new term

Times Staff Writer

An overwhelming majority of residents and civic leaders at a public hearing Monday on Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton’s tenure said they supported giving him a second five-year term.

The pro-Bratton testimony dominated the Police Commission hearing, even as some civil rights activists called on the chief to do more to make the department community-friendly, and a group of City Council members challenged the openness and sufficiency of the reappointment process.

In response, the commission announced the criteria it will use to decide whether the chief should be reappointed, including whether he shows “leadership ... to continue the progress of reform,” as well as an ability to continue crime reduction, recruitment of police officers and anti-terrorism efforts. Bratton has made major progress in those areas, according to the majority of those who testified Monday.

Lawrence Tolliver, a barber in South Los Angeles, told the panel that Bratton had visited his shop and listened to patrons’ concerns about the department. “I’m for him 100%,” he said.

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Bratton also received support from Blair Taylor, president of the Urban League of Los Angeles.

“In his pursuit of results, he has displayed integrity,” said Taylor, one of about 120 people who attended the evening public hearing at Department of Water and Power headquarters downtown.

About a dozen people, many of them opposed to the police crackdown on skid row, said they are against the chief’s reappointment. Allegre Padilla of the Pico-Union district complained that Bratton had backed away from supporting legislation to reopen the police disciplinary process.

“He is very hard on the enforcement side but does not do as much holistically to find community solutions,” Padilla said.

The hearing began with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asking the panel he appointed to give the chief another five years in office.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Los Angeles is a much safer place today than it was 4 1/2 years ago when Chief Bratton took over the Police Department,” he said.

Others testifying in support of the chief included Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and City Controller Laura Chick.

“He has truly been a solid leader,” Cooley said. “He is smart, he is resourceful and he gets the job done. So I say, ‘Hang on to him.’ ”

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The commission will consider the public input in deciding, possibly at its meeting next Tuesday, whether to give Bratton another five years when his term expires in October.

Bratton’s reappointment was also backed by all but one of the 84 letters and e-mails received by the commission by Monday’s hearing. Religious leaders who back Bratton include Pastor Frederick K.C. Price of the Crenshaw Christian Center, Msgr. John Moretta of the Church of the Resurrection and the Rev. John J. Hunter of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“He has been willing to confront the issues of police brutality, racism and the need to increase the size of the force,” Hunter wrote.

The endorsement with the most qualifiers came from Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

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Ripston supported the chief for his commitment to reform, while saying she remains “deeply troubled by” the police crackdown on skid row, including “aggressive and selective prosecution of minor offenses like jaywalking and littering.”

In addition, Ripston said the ACLU “strongly believes that much more should be done to eliminate racial profiling” from the LAPD.

“While the ACLU continues to be concerned that a culture permissive of excessive force prevails in the LAPD and to believe that more could be done to address the issue, Chief Bratton has taken important steps to curtail wrongful use of force,” she wrote.

The endorsement was stronger in a letter from 21 community leaders, including Stewart Kwoh, president of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

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“While some of us may from time to time differ about a particular issue or two -- as we would with anyone in public life -- we believe Chief Bratton has done an outstanding job of leading the department during his first term,” the group wrote.

The letter of opposition came from a Pasadena resident who said that Bratton ignored his request for answers about whether the LAPD had him under surveillance from 1992 to 1997.

The criteria by which the chief will be judged were included in a statement by commission President John Mack after four City Council members signaled concern about the process and asked that the criteria be made public. In a motion introduced last week and scheduled for a council vote today, council members Bernard C. Parks, Jan Perry, Janice Hahn and Bill Rosendahl called for the commission to “engage in greater community outreach,” especially to minority communities.

Mack’s statement Monday said that since the panel adopted the criteria in an open meeting in 2003, it had held several public meetings in African American and Latino neighborhoods. The motion noted that a recent survey found support for Bratton to be soft among minority residents.

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“These declines in community perceptions are somewhat alarming, particularly when the city is attempting to achieve substantial compliance, over the next two years, with the federal [police reform] consent decree,” wrote Parks, the motion’s author, who lost the chief’s job to Bratton five years ago.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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