I hope this message finds you well. Recent events in law enforcement across the country have spurred conversations, debates, and protests regarding the legitimacy of law enforcement today. I wish to discuss one key element as it pertains to OUR authority. The authority you earned from graduating the academy is legal authority. It is prescribed in multiple sections of law. However, there is another authority that I believe is more important. That is moral authority. What is the difference between moral authority and legal authority? Legal authority is given to you by the State. Moral authority is given to you by the People. Moral authority is created by the public’s general belief that you will do the right thing - that you will treat them fairly, that you will have compassion, that you will display empathy...that you will understand that no human being is perfect, including you and me.
As I have learned with almost 40 years of law enforcement experience, you can make a difference in people’s lives in a number of ways that don’t include incarceration. Now, you may arrest thousands of people during your career, just as I did, but arrest is an indication of a system’s failure. Not its success. Not your success and not the success of this Department. Our success is measured by how safe our City is, not by how many people we lock up. They are two very different things. When this City was at the height of the crime waves of the 1990’s, we arrested three times as many people as we do now. Did that make us a safer City? No. The crime rate was four times greater than it was last year. But now, this is a Department that understands building community is just as important as responding to 911 calls. As you respond to those calls-for-service, you will build that moral authority that is absolutely crucial to our job, and you do it every time you interact with somebody. No matter what that interaction is, you should do everything you can do so when that person walks away they think, “Well, I might not have been happy with the outcome, but the officer was fair.” That is hard to do, but you have done it successfully and you will continue to do it successfully.
We have earned it and must continue to earn it in every interaction we have with the People of Los Angeles. We are part of one of the largest and best police departments in the nation, but we are far too small for the task at hand. Without the support of the men and women of Los Angeles, we will never achieve our goals.
Thank you for all you do and be safe,
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