As we move into the last half of 2007, I want to update you on the progress of our number one Department goal, reducing crime and the fear of crime. At the beginning of the year, I announced that after four straight years of crime reductions, we could achieve another 5-percent drop during the first six months of 2007. While some questioned that strategy, I never doubted your ability and desire to prove the critics wrong. At a recent news conference with Mayor Villaraigosa, I was able to announce that as of June 30th, all Part One crime categories, with the exception of Burglary Theft from Vehicles, are down, and some are down significantly.
Each of you has worked tirelessly fighting crime in Los Angeles. The following chart gives you a snapshot of violent, gang and overall crime in each of the City’s 19 Geographic Area’s during the first six months of 2007.
When I became your Chief nearly 5 years ago, I made crime reduction a top priority. I’ve challenged you each year to continue to make the city’s streets safer and you have never let me down. You, the men and women of the LAPD, have proven that hard work, dedication, and consistent, compassionate and constitutional policing have made the City of Los Angeles a safer place to work and live in, and to visit. When I announced the good news, I was able to share some remarkable examples of lives that have been saved. Homicides had dropped a total of 21%, which meant 50 lives were saved citywide during the first six months of this year, compared to the same time period in 2006. While the numbers look good on paper, and make for positive headlines, the crime reductions restore hope and show that positive change can take place in our communities. I commend you for not only protecting and serving, but for helping to restore faith among a weary and uncertain public.
With these encouraging declines in crime, residents of L.A. began their summer with good news, and we have been able to feel a sense of pride in a job well done. Naturally, however, the work of any police force is never done. We still have a way to go to deliver on our goal of a total 5% reduction by the end of the year. Simply put: keep doing what you’re doing. Our declining crime levels are the product of strategic, professional, dedicated police work, and evidence of our commitment to the communities we serve.
Moving on to another matter, I began this message with a reference to the Six-Month Crime Update news conference. It was the media that communicated the good news of all of your hard work. We need the media to tell our stories, good and bad. It is up to each and every one of us to work with the media when we are called upon to do so.
Since the incident at MacArthur Park, the Department has been examining our protocols with respect to the media and looking at how best to work with them while at the same time performing our duties protecting the people of Los Angeles. We have been conducting this examination in a number of
different ways, some of which have included:
● Meeting with media representatives on the Sunday following the May Day Rally to discuss what occurred in MacArthur Park, and what immediate changes the Department should consider making with regards to policing public demonstrations and protecting the First Amendment rights of the media.
● Meeting with representatives from the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California to discuss issues of concern to their membership, particularly media access at crime scenes and media credentialing.
● Hosting a gathering of managers of local television and radio stations, major print publications, wire services, and network news bureaus to discuss the events of May Day and to discuss ways to train together and improve the working relationship between Department personnel and
● Reviewing the Crespo Decision, the settlement agreement between the City of Los Angeles and members of the media regarding the media’s right to cover First Amendmentprotected demonstrations and rallies.
Our findings from this period of examination have been helpful and informative. We have made some changes, and many more are in the works. Among these changes:
● Public Information Officers (PIO) are to be clearly identifiable at events. We have begun using LAPD PIObranded vests to visibly identify PIOs at gatherings. On sight, a member of the media can now easily recognize and
locate a PIO.
● In the event of unlawful assembly, we must designate a media viewing area in theimmediate vicinity in order for the media to witness, report, and record the gathering for their organizations.
● Training Division is modifying and improving modern media relations training for recruits and tailoring it for the post-MacArthur Park era.
Additionally, the Public Information Office participated in the training sessions conducted for both Metro Division and Command Staff, updating both groups on current media relations principles and techniques. We are looking into updating the training at supervisor schools and Watch Commanders’ schools, and we are considering bringing the media in to participate in future sessions.
The media response to our outreach has been positive. Members of the media have been very generous of themselves and their time, and many have indicated an interest in participating in some of our future training sessions.
What is now clearer than ever is we must have a positive working relationship with the media, and we must never breach this relationship. Understand the media is not our enemy and, in many instances, they are critical to our success. The media is our single best vehicle for informing the public and for appealing to the public on our behalf when we need information. Many crimes have been solved as a result of media attention.
Every contact with the media, and in particular that first contact, should be a positive one. This is extremely important at crime scenes. The media is not to be artificially barred from covering news, ever. They have the right to be in any area where the public is allowed to be. The media has a job to do and we have to let them.
Lastly, the key for success with the media lies in communication. When working with the media, do what is possible to facilitate their needs. In maintaining this relationship and keeping it healthy, our work can only be positively impacted. In facilitating the needs of the media, you facilitate the needs of the Department.
Nobody knows the amount of pressure that comes with being a cop more than I do. We are asked to do work that is dangerous and are often second-guessed. We are constantly under a media microscope and are criticized after the fact for life and death decisions. I am asking you to make our crime
numbers drop further and perform the myriad other aspects of your job to Department standards, all while remaining mediafriendly at any given moment. I know I am asking a lot, but this is what comes with being a member of this great organization, protecting and serving our city. I know of no other group of people better equipped or more capable of doing so.