All organizations have one person in a position of leadership, the overall decision-maker who, working with the members of the organization, sets the goals and creates the strategies and tactics to achieve them. Five years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to become that person, as Chief of Police, here at the Los Angeles Police Department. Our LAPD is a legendary organization, with a storied past, and a rightful place in popular culture, and is looked to and venerated by our peers in other departments around the world. I have been given the chance to work with some of the finest cops in our profession, along with a dedicated civilian workforce, in a city that presents daily challenges other places can only imagine. Upon my appointment as Chief, I quickly learned that LA is like no other city, and the LAPD is like no other police force, and together both faced significant challenges. Crime had been on the rise for seven years, fueled by a gang problem that was not being addressed effectively. The Department was struggling to implement the reforms mandated by the Federal Consent Decree, and September 11th had left the nation, and the City, anxiety-ridden over the potential and likelihood of future terrorist attacks.
When I was sworn in, I had a vision for this Department and where it should go. I openly referred to myself as a change agent, and I was welcomed with respect and a commitment to work from both sworn and civilian employees. Together we set the three goals of reducing crime, achieving compliance with the Consent Decree and significantly expanding terrorism preparedness. As I have repeatedly challenged you to achieve these goals, you have continuously and successfully responded to the challenge.
I have told you many times that if you give me a good story to tell, I will tell it. What has happened here at the LAPD since my first day on October 25, 2002, has been more than a good story. This Department has undergone a massive re-engineering, refocusing and recommitment during the past five years, resulting in historic changes and accomplishments. And, best of all, you did it. You made positive change happen.
First of all, our crime numbers. Under the leadership of Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, we have seen significant declines, in all categories. The crime rate in LA is lower than it has been at any time since the 1950’s.
Los Angeles is now the secondsafest big city in the United States of America. Compared to five years ago, violent crimes are down by more than 46%. Total Part I crimes are down more than 31%. But that’s not all. Gang violence, which has wreaked havoc on our City for far too long, and accounts for so much of the overall fear and violence, has also declined. Gangrelated homicides are down more than 45% in these five years. In many neighborhoods of the city, residents can feel the difference. We are also on track with this year’s goal of a 5% crime reduction. These are successes that you should feel proud of because they are yours. You prove each and every day that cops count – that you count. You are the difference.
To more effectively implement the mandates of the Federal Consent Decree, and to maximize its benefits to the Department, we established the Consent Decree Bureau, headed by Police Administrator Gerald Chaleff. This Bureau, with your participation and cooperation, has done a superb job of incorporating the Federal Consent Decree into the operations of the Department. It has not been an easy process. It is always painstaking and sometimes onerous, but something that must be done. The vast majority of the Consent Decree, excluding TEAMS II and financial disclosure, was met by June 15, 2006, as targeted. Primarily because the incredibly complex and innovative TEAMS II computer systems took longer to create and implement than we had originally anticipated, the Consent Decree was extended to June 2009, at which point we will have met all of its mandates for at least two years, as required. None of you should underestimate the ultimate importance of that compliance. Once again, it could not have been done without your hard work and commitment.
With the help and creativity of many capable Department members, in 2003, we launched the Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau. Today, headed by Deputy Chief Michael Downing, this talented group has helped establish the Department as a nationally recognized leader in terrorism prevention and preparedness. The creative development of the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, Project Archangel, and Terrorism Liaison Officer Program stand as examples of how we can work proactively as a Department. We focus on prevention and disruption of terrorist plots, as opposed to merely reacting to events. Together, we have created a counter-terrorism capacity and capability second to none.
As a further reflection and demonstration of your professionalism during my time with you, you have continually demonstrated agility and flexibility in embracing many needed “best practices” policy changes. We rolled out thoroughly researched and creative new policies including shooting at or from moving vehicles, the new vehicle pursuit policy, and the false alarm/home burglar alarm policy. These policies have presented significant changes in the way you conduct your work on a day-today basis. You quickly adapted to those changes and made them a reality for the members of our Department, and improved safety for not only yourselves but for the public as well.
The Department is also growing larger and younger at an accelerated pace. The huge impact of the DROP program, plus our regular attrition, presented a potentially damaging decrease of sworn officers on our force. Recruitment Section was tasked with developing strategies to prevent this crisis, and they have succeeded. Under the direction of then-Commander Kenneth Garner, and, now, Commander James Cansler, Recruitment Section has not only averted the crisis, but totally changed the momentum. The Department is on target with recruitment goals that are resulting in a younger and historically diverse workforce throughout all levels of the Department. As the City’s population mix is changing, so is ours. The challenge is to not lose the skills that age and experience bring and that have been so instrumental to our success.
The Los Angeles Police Department is also thriving in this age of information technology. The only thing holding us back from reaching our true potential in this critical area is money. Nonetheless, we have upgraded and modernized many of our systems. The prototype Smart Car, a stunning combination of automotive power and technological capabilities, delivers license recognition software, facial recognition software, GPS software for pursuit management, Mobile Data Computers, and in-car video cameras, in one package. These vehicles represent cutting-edge policing technology and, combined with our highly trained LAPD officers, create an unbeatable crime-fighting capability. We will work aggressively in future years to try to obtain the resources necessary to make Smart Cars our basic police car.
We have also begun using cameras extensively to help police our City. Hollywood Area has used cameras with great success. In the Jordan Downs Housing Project, a particularly crime-ridden area, cameras have helped to create a much safer environment. Following the installation of the cameras more than a year ago, crime has been reduced by 29 percent in the housing complex, and 19 percent in the surrounding area. To measure the effectiveness of the program, the surrounding area was analyzed to ensure that crime was being reduced and not just displaced. Rampart Area has also used cameras to great effect in restoring safety to the Alvarado Corridor, and in returning MacArthur Park to the community. A great park, this area was infested with gangs, drugs, prostitutes and violence for years. Now, with crime in decline, joggers can be seen circling the lake, and youth soccer teams play on the field. Cameras in Los Angeles seem like an obvious idea, but it was the LAPD of this era, with creative leaders like Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and our Chief Information Officer Tim Riley, that continued against great odds to get it done.
Parker Center is an icon in Los Angeles. “The Glass House” has served the Department well since it’s opening in 1952. Unfortunately, it hasn’t aged well. It has been in use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 55 years. It is outdated and not up to code, falling short of modern-day safety standards. But it will only be our home for a couple more years. With the support of the Police Commission, and the approval of City Council, we broke ground on the new $440 million dollar headquarters building in January of this year. The new 10-story building is one of three aspects of the new headquarters complex that also includes a vehicle maintenance facility and a public plaza. Scheduled to open in May 2009, our new headquarters will put more of us under one roof and provide us with the most modern police headquarters facility in the nation.
We are also replacing our old jail facility. The current jail has only 72,000 square feet and features midcentury technology, at best. The new “Type 1” facility, projected for completion in March 2008, will have the most current technology available and 179,000 square feet for housing up to 512 inmates.
Many of our Area stations have also outgrown their use and were in desperate need of replacement. Hollenbeck, Rampart, Harbor, and West Valley, among the oldest of our geographic Areas, are all being replaced. For the first time in decades, we have added a new Area, Mission, to service an area of the valley whose needs expanded rapidly. Two more Area stations are also on the way: Mid-City and Northwest.
Another history-making new facility came in the form of the new crime lab, the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center. This 5-story building, with over 209,000 square feet, represents an unprecedented collaborative effort between LAPD, the LA County Sheriff’s Department, and California State University LA. Having just opened this year, the building features the latest technology and office space for more than 400 employees, while it provides a single location and the necessary tools for our forensic specialists.
While the aforementioned aspects of the Department have been changing, so have some of the most fundamental tools an officer uses as well. My many years in law enforcement on both the East Coast and, now, the West Coast, have exposed me to many “best practices,” which include “best equipment.” For the first time in the Department’s history, flat badges are available for our sworn force. These badges are enclosed in a case and fit comfortably in a pocket, are easy to carry and easy to present. We have also adopted Glock safe-action pistols as our weapon of choice, a major change to the most basic of the officer’s everyday essentials. These firearms are safer, better, and easier to use than the previous official handgun.We also designed the new “LAPD flashlight,” which will become a prototype for many other agencies. We are also in the same testing and design process with a new streamlined Taser that features a mini video camera. This initiative is still in the testing phase, and more news will come on that in the future.
We have come a long way from where we were in October of 2002. We have grown, advanced, and evolved in a relatively short period of time. Crime levels are at historic lows. We are better prepared than ever to prevent and/or respond to a terrorist attack. We are near 100% compliance with the Federal Consent Decree, a major milestone. We are achieving and frequently exceeding our own stretch goals.
This month, I will make history as the first Chief to serve a second term under the new limits set by the City Charter, which would not have been possible without you, the fine men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department. It is your story and accomplishments that I have been proud to tell for the last five years, and that served as the foundation for my reappointment. It is your continuing story that I will be privileged to tell in the years ahead. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I know that you will not let me- or the City- down, and my promise to you is to do all I can to lead you with pride, commitment and respect.