One of the most difficult jobs of any law enforcement organization is to build trust with a skeptical public. By its very nature, policing is a job of enforcement. Cops are considered bad guys because they force people to follow the law. While what we do doesn’t always make for good public relations, our job is vital to preserving a free democratic society.
Everyday, the men and women of this Department are working hard to foster and gain the trust of the communities we work with. Through a commitment to transparency and positive institutional change the Department continues to restore community confidence in the LAPD and markedly reduce crime. These changes would not have been possible without a workforce comprised of civic-minded individuals committed to best practices in policing.
But to truly fulfill our vision to make LA the safest big city in the nation, I need more talented, hard working, dedicated cops. Over the past several years my goals for the Department have remained the same – reduce crime and the fear it instills, fully implement the Consent Decree, and prevent and respond to acts of terrorism. Now, I’m adding recruitment as my 4th goal.
Over the next five years, the LAPD will be hiring 1,000 recruits, beginning with 650 new hires in fiscal year 2006/2007. As we work to achieve recruitment and other Department goals we must remember that community partnerships built on trust will effect long-term social change in this City. It is my belief that transparency in our day-to-day operations inspires public support. But transparency goes both ways. We need to know, in a way that is not filtered through the media, what the public thinks about the job we are doing.
A few months ago the Department launched this new blog as a web-based tool to serve as a window into the LAPD. As an online, interactive journal used to deliver real-time, unfiltered information, it has done a number of things to promote transparency. It has allowed the Department to respond to criticism or misrepresentations without having our responses edited; it lets us gauge the public’s pulse; and it encourages that two-way communication.
Since its May launch, the blog has had over a 100,000 visits, averaging almost 2,000 daily. In its brief existence, more than 500 comments have been generated in response to Department postings. The Department reviews comments to ensure that they do not contain inappropriate remarks or profanity and they do not appear on our web log until approved.
At the outset, this blog’s primary purpose was to engage a local audience in open dialogue about current events. It has done that and more. Throughout the country and around the world—from the United Kingdom to Mexico—bloggers are blogging.
In May, for instance, a major counterfeiting-operation shutdown in Downtown Los Angeles prompted a flurry of discussion. During the two-day raid, officers seized $18.4 million worth of counterfeit designer-brand merchandise.
Regularly monitored by our command staff, sworn and civilian personnel, this blog item prompted our own people to participate in the online discussion. Deputy Chief Mark Leap, Commanding Officer, LAPD Counter Terrorism Bureau, replied to a blogger who questioned the operation’s merit. Deputy Chief Leap wrote, “Since September 11th, law enforcement in general, not just the LAPD, has linked counterfeit goods to terrorist funding… [These] investigations have resulted in disruptions of [terrorist activities] and should continue to be the focus of the LAPD.”
Another news item that generated many comments was the shooting of LAPD Officer Kristina Ripatti on June 3. Bloggers expressed concern, empathy, and encouragement for Officer Ripatti, who suffered serious wounds after being struck twice by gunfire.
Similarly, a “Los Angeles Daily News” editorial titled, “Lowered Standards,” prompted rapid-fire dialogue. The article referenced a proposal by Councilman Bernard Parks. The policy sought to reinstate a zero-tolerance mandate that would disqualify police officer candidates with any history of drug use.
In this instance, the blog allowed me to comment on the proposed policy and the subsequent “Daily News” article. It gave me the opportunity to explain that our standards have, in fact, increased—in many respects—but that we have a practical and flexible hiring approach. My response generated almost 30 comments.
The torrent of e-chatter truly testifies to the blog’s success. Though the Department reserves the right to withhold comments that contain profanity or other inappropriate material, it does not shy away from posting criticism.
As this blog matures we will continue to expand its content, including sections for each geographic area. Transparency, either through the media, our website—LAPDonline.org—or the LAPD Blog, helps us to connect with people in the communities we protect and serve. As we connect we are fostering trust and building the kinds of community relationships and partnerships that we need to be a successful and respected law enforcement organization.
WILLIAM J. BRATTON
Chief of Police