Bratton Outlines Anti-Gang Initiative

Bratton Outlines Anti-Gang Initiative

· Chief Questions LAPD’s Organization, Effectiveness

Jan 15, 2003 3:30 pm US/Pacific
(AP) (LOS ANGELES) Police Chief William Bratton spoke out on Los Angeles’ gang-homicide problem Wednesday, urging a concerted and innovative approach.

“This department, the last several years, has been on the bench” as far as gangs are concerned, he said at the South Los Angeles Community Safety Task Force at the Crenshaw Christian Center.

The police, he said, “haven’t even been on the field. Well, today marks us getting back into the game, getting on the field. But we’re at the 1-yard line, with 100 yards to go to get a touchdown.”

“The (Los Angeles Police) Department’s efforts (at halting gang crime) were not effective at all,” Bratton said later in a radio interview.

“Clearly, when you look at the homicide rate, violence increases and shooting increases last year, we’ve (figuratively) been warming the bench for the last couple of years.”

Bratton said a collection of task forces known as “Community Impact Action Teams” will help police develop strategies for fighting gang crime.

“We’re still trying to find ways … (to) collaborate more intimately with the community,” he said. “What is the appropriate role of the community as far as prioritization and focus?”

The LAPD has struggled to keep gang violence in check since the dissolution of its anti-gang “CRASH” teams several years ago.

That came after then-Officer Rafael Perez told federal prosecutors that CRASH — it stood for Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums — cops routinely framed suspects and sold drugs and had become street hoodlums themselves.

Since then, gang units have been hamstrung by the fact that each of the LAPD’s 18 geographic divisions has its own gang units working independent of the others.

“Ironically, as disorganized as the gangs themselves are, I don’t know if we’re all that well-organized ourselves,” Bratton said.

To address that issue, Bratton last month promoted Mike Hillman to deputy chief, putting him in charge of gang suppression efforts on a department-wide basis. Hillman was with the chief today at the Christian Center

Also, the chief said restrictions enacted under the federal consent decree the city agreed to in 2001 to avoid a takeover by the Department of Justice have made fighting gangs difficult.

The consent decree mandates numerous reforms the LAPD must undertake to ensure that civil rights violations do not continue to occur, including limits on how gang officers can function.

As a result, the department will ask the judge overseeing its implementation of the consent decree to relax some restrictions.

“These gang units, which are basically our front line, are not allowed to work in plain clothes, are not allowed to work narcotics, are not allowed to have informants,” Bratton told KFWB. “All these are basic tools necessary to deal with the type of activity that gangs represent.”

Also, Bratton wants the LAPD to work with other law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and the District Attorney’s Office, to tackle the gang problem from all sides.

Federal action, such as prosecuting gangs under the racketeering statute, can be as effective as the city’s efforts to enact injunctions barring gang members from even congregating in groups, according to Bratton.

“We have a lot of tools in the arsenal; we just have not been coordinating them very well,” Bratton said.

“Clearly, after the original CRASH units were broken up after the Rampart scandal, the department never did find an effective way to replace them,” Bratton told the KFWB audience. “What we’re now attempting to do is just that.”

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