Police Chief William J. Bratton moved Monday to mend fences with rank-and-file officers over his condemnation of the police response to a May Day immigration rally, even as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the controversy had not altered his support for Bratton as he seeks another five-year term.
Police Commission President John Mack said Monday that the controversy over the police response to the MacArthur Park rally would be considered but would not be a deciding factor in the panel’s decision on the chief’s tenure.
Bratton, who has called the actions of officers at the rally an embarrassing mistake, met Monday for an hour with members of the executive board of the police union who had warned over the weekend that comments by city leaders were damaging officers’ morale.
“This is not a witch hunt. This is not a feeling of having to hang ‘em high,” Bratton said, adding that he would wait for the outcome of the investigation.
“Not a single Metro officer at this time has been suspended. There is no rush to judgment by me.”
Union officials emerged from the meeting saying they remained concerned, according to a spokesman.
Bratton’s decision to reassign the two command officers at the scene drew questions from some at City Hall about his own failure to exert control over the situation.
At 6:15 p.m. on May 1, about the time that officers began advancing on the crowd to drive them from the park, Bratton was arriving at the Sheraton hotel in Universal City to attend a political fundraising reception for Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, officials said.
Bratton stayed at the Cooley reception only briefly, a spokeswoman said, but it meant he was not in MacArthur Park when the melee broke out.
“It raises grave concerns about our city’s commitment to public safety when, during the largest and most controversial demonstration of the year, our mayor is out of the country and our police chief is schmoozing with political donors at a fundraiser,” said one high-level city official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid hurting relations with the powerful chief.
Bratton said he believed at the time that there was adequate command staff in the park.
He also said Monday that he was not worried about his job.
“I’m very comfortable that I will get a second term,” Bratton said. “This event reinforces what I was hired to do in this city, which was to exert strong, experienced leadership when crises occur.”
With Bratton taking some heat from community activists and police union leaders, Villaraigosa began the news conference by reaffirming his support for the chief.
“True leadership shows itself in tough times, and Bill Bratton has proven to be a true leader,” Villaraigosa said. “He has my support because from the very beginning, he has taken this very seriously.”
The commission is scheduled to begin considering Bratton’s request for a second term behind closed doors today, but a vote has been postponed because only four of the five commissioners will be present, Mack said.