LAPD again a player in battle against gangs, chief says

LAPD again a player in battle against gangs, chief says

By Mariel Garza
Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 15, 2003 – Even as city officials warned that they might be forced to stop hiring cops because of a budget crunch, Police Chief William Bratton said Wednesday that the Los Angeles Police Department is finally getting serious about fighting gangs.

Mayor James Hahn joined Bratton on Wednesday morning in South Los Angeles to formally lay out the chief’s new anti-gang plan. The plan, to be implemented citywide by the end of March, calls for more cooperation among police agencies, involvement by neighborhood leaders and other community residents, and a focused coordination of specialized police units.

Bratton said although the changes sound simple, the culture of the LAPD prevented them in the past.

And when it came to fighting gangs, “this department, for the last several years, has been on the bench,” Bratton said, using a football metaphor. “They haven’t even been on the field. Well, today marks us getting back into the game.”

Bratton, a former New York police commissioner who came to know the LAPD when he was on the team monitoring implementation of a federal consent decree over the department, attributed the inaction to fallout from the Rampart scandal.

“After Rampart, you can really see how the department began to unravel,” Bratton said.

Police Commission President Rick Caruso concurred, noting that even early in 2002 commissioners predicted a particularly violent year. But their calls for creative ways of fighting gangs went unanswered, he said. The result was a particularly bloody year with 344 gang-related killings out of 685 slayings citywide.

The Rev. Leonard Jackson of First AME Church, a leading voice of the South Los Angeles community, joined Bratton for the announcement and called upon community residents to get even more involved. He said he has noticed a shift in community residents’ ability to access the department.

Hector Marroquin Jr., a gang-intervention counselor with No Guns, the organization his father started, said he also has noticed a new attitude from LAPD officers.

It’s hard to explain exactly, Marroquin said, but the distrust between the community and the police seems to have eased in recent months.

“I feel it’s being taken down a little bit,” Marroquin said. “I think the wall is coming down.”

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