Less than a month after being sworn in as Los Angeles police chief, Michel Moore was at the helm of a crisis.
A gunman had led police officers on a car chase, then shot at them and held people hostage inside a Trader Joe’s for hours before surrendering. A store manager was dead, struck by a single bullet.
Within days, Moore released videos showing the dramatic pursuit and gunbattle. He acknowledged that the bullet that killed the store manager July 21 came from one of his officers.
Looking back at that time, Moore said that erring on the side of transparency was the right call.
“Bringing the information we did have to public light as quickly as possible was in all of our best interests,” he said Tuesday at a news conference at LAPD headquarters to reflect on his first 100 days as chief.
Much of what Moore, a 37-year LAPD veteran, has done since becoming chief at the end of June has been less flashy than his Trader Joe’s performance. He has spent countless hours listening to city residents and police officers at church services, community meetings and station roll calls.
His goal was to attend 90 community events in 90 days. The actual tally has been much higher, he said — 170 events in all. The department will hold 28 community forums over the next year, he said.
Moore has also created new community outreach units that will pay extra attention to areas such as South Los Angeles, where many residents do not trust the police.
From a survey he sent to the department’s 10,000 sworn officers and 3,000 civilians, Moore learned that overwhelming workloads and outdated technology were among his employees’ top concerns.
He is implementing a thorough revamp of technology to help police officers do their jobs more efficiently. To file routine reports, officers use computer systems that are decades old — combined with body cameras and smartphones of more recent vintage — slowing them down and keeping them from street duty.
By the beginning of next year, Moore plans to reassign about 200 officers to street patrol and detective work from specialized details. That will help improve response times that exceed an hour for routine calls in some parts of the city. He is negotiating with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, to decide which positions will be affected.
During Moore’s tenure as chief, homicides are down 9% and violent crime is down 3% from the same period a year ago, according to statistics provided by the LAPD. Property crime is down 4%.
So far this year, LAPD officers have shot 26 people, compared with 36 during the same period last year. Ten of the shootings were fatal, versus 13 fatal shootings last year.
“The ideal number of uses of force is clearly zero,” Moore said.
The chief received some scrutiny after a Los Angeles Times story published in August revealed that he received a $1.27 million pension payment from the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, program, retiring from the department briefly before returning. The controversial program pays police officers and firefighters their salaries and pensions simultaneously during the last five years of their careers, even if they are not on active duty. Moore later acknowledged that the program “would benefit from some adjustments.”
But even some who were initially skeptical of Moore, who is known as a data wonk and a demanding manager, have been surprised by his willingness to listen.
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said that in frequent meetings with union leaders, Moore has been “very open-minded and accessible.”
“Homelessness and mental health issues will not be fixed in 100 days,” Lally said. “We’ve got to give him time. He’s going in the right direction and has been extremely open to looking for solutions from us.”
Moore’s chief of staff, Deputy Chief Bob Green, said his boss asks “follow up after follow up” question to understand every detail of an issue.
“I’m extraordinarily impressed at the speed he’s moving, the level of accountability, his willingness to listen on every level of the organization to improve the organization,” Green said.
At Police Commission meetings, where Black Lives Matter activists have protested police shootings and repeatedly called for his predecessor, Charlie Beck, to be fired, Moore has set a new tone. He sometimes defuses an angry speaker by promising to arrange a meeting with a staff member.
Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Commission, said Moore has exceeded expectations in his ability to connect with people.
“Not only is he smart, but he’s so rooted in progressive community policing and so proactive about it and so creative about it,” Soboroff said.
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