Chief's February Message

For far too many years, the City of Los Angeles has been gripped by the scourge of gang violence. While over the past several years we have focused on driving down all Part 1 crime Citywide, 2007 will be the year that we refocus our efforts to begin the process of permanently impacting this problem of domestic and community terrorism. Although each of the 19 geographic Areas has its own unique gang issue, our first target will be in the Harbor Gateway area. In December 2006, 14 year-old Cheryl Green was shot by members of the 204th Street gang.

At a news conference on January 18, the Mayor and I were joined by Councilmember Janice Hahn, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Sheriff Lee Baca, and representatives from the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the parole and probation departments, and other law enforcement organizations, to announce our intentions of dismantling the 204th Street gang.

The behavior of this relatively small gang, with less than 120 members, has made it stand out among other gangs in the City. Make no mistake; our goal is to get rid of this gang.

Because of geographic borders and jurisdictions, and through the sharing of data and strategies, the Department will be collaborating with other agencies, including other local law enforcement organizations and the federal government. This united front to suppress this type of activity will open the door for more long-term strategies such as prevention and intervention. We will also be using some of the proven strategies of the past, like gang injunctions, stay-away orders, and strategic deployment. As I have said before, we will never arrest our way out of the gang problem, but the solution must start with suppression. We must first make the area safe so that the intervention and prevention strategies will work.

We will also direct our attention to the San Fernando Valley. We recently announced a new program to assign a probation officer to each of the six Valley stations to help us quickly identify and arrest suspects who violate the terms of their probation. This $500,000 program, teaming up with LA County resources, begins February 5 and focuses on the area where crime has risen the highest in the City. Gangs are to blame for a large percentage of the homicides in the Valley in 2006.

Although the Harbor Gateway area and the San Fernando Valley are where we are focusing our attention and resources now, later in February we will be announcing strategies to attack the gang problem on a Citywide comprehensive and coordinated basis.

In referring to our year-end crime numbers, when the preliminary figures for 2006 were totaled, I was able to tell another good story of the results of your hard work. Last month I applauded your efforts at reducing crime by nearly 8 percent. This month I want to break down the numbers for you so that you can see for yourselves how all of your hard work is paying off.

Crime in the City of Los Angeles dropped for the fifth year in a row in 2006. The per capita crime rate for Part I crime remained below the 1956 level for the second year in a row. Preliminary totals show that nearly 11,000 fewer persons were victimized by major crime last year.

While violent crime was up 3.7% mid-year across the nation, it declined in Los Angeles by 2.5% by the end of the year. Property crime in L.A. dropped 9%, exceeding the national decline of 2.6%.

All but one of the eight categories of Part I crime showed decreases for the last five years. In 2006, homicides dropped 1.8%, the lowest since 1999,rape decreased 7.2%, aggravated assaults 9.1%, burglary dipped 8.2%, car burglary dropped 8.8%, personal and other theft decreased 9.3%, and auto theft dropped 8.1%. Robbery was the only major crime category in the City to increase in 2006 after being down for the last four years.

The jump in robbery paralleled the nation’s, but at a lower rate. At midyear, the national robbery rate was up 8.4% in the major metropolitan counties. At one point during the year, robberies rose over 10% across the City, but the year ended with the robbery rate up 5.5%. The largest increases occurred in the San Fernando Valley despite a nearly 24% increase in arrests, including the capture of several serial robbers.

A ranking of geographic Areas by their Part 1 crime reduction is provided in the following chart.

So, while we certainly have a good story to tell, I still expect continued annual crime reductions. And we will do that by placing more focus on the disproportionately large amount of gang-related crimes. In 2007, we will concentrate our efforts on creative and innovative ways to deal with this continuing and pervasive problem as part of our overall crime and fear reduction efforts.

Chief's January Message

As we begin the New Year, I thought this would be an appropriate time to comment on a number of issues of interest to you and to the public. Two videotaped arrests involving noncategorical uses of force by LAPD officers were the focus of much attention by the public, the media, and the internet community. By now, I am sure all of you are familiar with the arrests, one that occurred in Hollywood involving William Cardenas and one that occurred in Pacific Area involving Benjamin Barker.

In the Hollywood case, two officers spotted William Cardenas, a local gang member, on August 11, 2006. He was wanted on a felony warrant for receiving stolen property, a gun. As officers tried to arrest him, he ran. After chasing him, Cardenas was knocked to the ground. He struggled and the officers used force. In the officers arrest report, there was a summary of the force used including a description of one of the officers striking Cardenas on the face as they tried to arrest him. Cardenas has pleaded no contest to the stolen property charge and the Department’s administrative investigation is continuing.

In the Pacific case, on February 8, 2005, Benjamin Barker was arrested after business owners reported that he had attacked a storeowner and was spitting on and challenging a store patron to fight. After handcuffing Mr. Barker, officers tried to put him in the back of a police car. At one point, Mr. Barker spat on an officer who then used OC spray on him. A witness captured the arrest on videotape. The tape was given to the Consent Decree Independent Monitor. The administrative investigation found the officer’s actions to be in policy, with training recommended. The involved officer left
the Department prior to the complaint being filed.

In both of these cases, it is important to note that the proper investigative and reporting procedures were followed. Events and incidents will always occur. Our responsibility is to deal with them openly, honestly and effectively, both for the sake of the officers and the public. I am committed to doing just that. While we as police officers are authorized to use force to overcome resistance, the reality is that LAPD officers show great restraint. Each year, officers in this Department have more than a million contacts with the public. In 2005 we made nearly 160,000 arrests and in only about 2,000 of those arrests, was any force used. In only 99 of them, was life threatening force, or force causing serious injury used.

Speaking to another issue regarding the use of force, and at the recommendation of our tactical and use of force experts, the Department has discontinued the term distraction strike.” We have discontinued this term because of its ambiguity and the need for clarity and more accurate documentation.

Officers reporting this use of force need to articulate the type of strike delivered, where on the body it was delivered, and the reason or intent for applying the strike. For example, was the strike an open palm heel strike, a closed fist strike, or was something other than the officer’s hand used? Also important is your reason, the intent behind your decision to apply the strike. Distraction strikes were originally intended as a way for officers to transition to other techniques to control a suspect. In the past, the term “distraction strikes” had been misused to describe strikes intended to cause a suspect to submit to arrest or to stop an offensive action when there was no intention of transitioning to another technique. Officers need to understand that while we are eliminating the term, we are not adding or deleting any arrest and control techniques.

It may seem like the negative aspects of policing are often in the spotlight. To offset that impression, we all need to do a better job internally of highlighting examples of outstanding police work, which are much more commonplace and reflective of your hard work and dedication. The LAPD has an established process to honor employees, both officers and civilians, whose service has been exemplary.The Department Awards and Decorations Coordinator out of the Personnel Group handles this process. From the Meritorious Unit Citations up to the prestigious Medal of Valor, this process can only work if employees are recommended and the appropriate paperwork is completed.

Any supervisor can submit a recommendation for an official Department award by forwarding the paperwork to their Area or Division commanding officer. Once the commanding officer has signed off on the recommendation, it goes to the Bureau for  approval. The Bureau then forwards the submission to the Awards and Decorations Coordinator, who takes it to the Commendations Board. After review, the Commendations Board forwards those awards that need additional approval to myself, Assistant Chief Papa and to the Police Commission.

Other honors, outside the Department’s official awards program, are often forwarded to commanding officers for nominations. These include awards from elected officials, national violence prevention organizations, and law enforcement fraternal and professional organizations. Recently, Sergeant Julie Rodriguez of Mission Area nominated officers for two separate honors. Officer Gonzalo Lara was awarded the 2006 James Brady Law Enforcement Award of Excellence, recognizing his proactive gun violence prevention efforts by working with young people in his area. Additionally, Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith awarded Officer Richard Stocks with the “Dan Danko Lifetime Award.” Officer Stocks was recognized for his commitment to early gang intervention and the development of the “Balancing the Odds” program. Both Officer Lara and Officer Stocks received the accolades they deserved thanks to the efforts of Sergeant Rodriguez.

In November 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger presented four LAPD officers with the state “Medal of Valor” for acts of heroism. Officers Troy Zeeman and Bryan Gregson were honored for a Feb. 17, 2005, arrest in connection with a drive-by shooting. At one point, the suspect leveled his pistol at Zeeman, told him “You’re dead,” and squeezed off a shot that missed; Zeeman and Gregson then shot back, wounding the gunman and took him into custody. Officers Jeffrey Jensen and Paul Waymire were credited with saving an accident victim trapped in a burning vehicle on October 16, 2005.

Based on our crime reduction figures over the past several years, outstanding police work, that should be recognized, is constantly occurring throughout this City. Commanding officers should focus additional attention on both our internal awards process, as well as requests for nominations from outside sources, to ensure that the personnel in their commands, both sworn and civilian, are appropriately recognized.

As we move into 2007, my goal for reducing Part 1 crime during the first six months of 2007 is five percent. Both Assistant Chief Paysinger and I feel this is a realistic objective based on the outstanding past performance of the men and women of this Department. In 2006, you reduced crime by another eight percent, to the lowest level in 50 years. You should all feel proud of that accomplishment. By continuing to foster and improve relationships with other law enforcement agencies, other City departments and our community/police partnerships, I believe we will end up looking back on 2007 as
another successful year.

As we begin the New Year, I want to thank each of you for all of your hard work in 2006. Your professionalism, creativity, commitment, and courage make me proud to say I am your Chief. Together we’ve made incredible strides towards regaining our place as leaders in law enforcement, improving our relations in the communities we serve, and truly making Los Angeles a safer place. But the job isn’t finished yet, and I look forward to meeting new challenges in 2007, working with you and continuing to tell your story.