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Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 14:59 GMT
Bratton tackles LAPD blues
Los Angeles has a new police chief, Bill Bratton. He is the man who pioneered "zero tolerance" in New York, where he achieved a big cut in crime rates. But, as BBC News Online's Chris Summers discovered, he has an even harder task in the City of Angels.
The former New York police chief, who managed to halve the murder rate in the Big Apple, has now taken up the task of cleaning up Los Angeles.
But his new job is arguably much harder than his old one.
For starters, New York had 40,000 officers while Los Angeles, albeit with only half the population, has only 9,000.
Secondly the LAPD has a dreadful reputation for police brutality - the Rodney King affair was only the tip of the iceberg - and widespread corruption.
The hit TV show The Shield was based on the LAPD's Rampart scandal and actor Michael Chiklis won an Emmy for playing Vic Mackey, a policeman who plants guns on suspects, takes pay-offs from drug dealers and even kills a fellow officer who has been asked to uncover these dirty dealings.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle Mr Bratton faces is the gang violence that is endemic in Los Angeles in a way it has never been on the East Coast.
This year there have been 656 murders in LA, up from 552 last year.
One of Mr Bratton's first actions was to appoint a new deputy to oversee anti-gang efforts.
He also ordered graffiti - widely used by the gangs to mark their territory and insult their rivals - to be cleaned off the city's walls.
Mr Bratton compared the gangs to terrorists and called on the federal authorities to use legislation used against the mafia to crack down on the gangs.
Many black and hispanic Angelenos find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
They detest the malevolent influence of the 500 street gangs - Bloods, Crips and others like the Latin Kings - but also resent the high-handed and allegedly racist manner of many LAPD officers.
Mounting anger spilled over in 1992 following the acquittal of four officers caught on camera beating up black suspect Rodney King.
The riots that followed killed 54 people and caused $1bn worth of damage to Compton and other parts of South Central LA.
'Control your cops'
After a spate of recent shoot-outs, which led to the death of two Latino teenagers, demonstrators called on Mr Bratton to "control your cops".
He responded with characteristic gusto: "Control your kids!"
But it has been allegations of corruption that have been doing more harm to the LAPD's already tarnished reputation.
But even hardened reporters were shocked when, in September 1999, an officer called Rafael Perez began to spill the beans on an affair that became known as the Rampart scandal because of the division in which he worked.
Perez, who was facing some serious jail time after being found to have stolen 6lb of cocaine from a police evidence locker, eventually embroiled 70 officers.
'Routinely planted evidence'
Many of them were in the Rampart division's elite anti-gang CRASH unit (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums).
Perez claimed they shot unarmed civilians, routinely planted evidence, including guns, on suspects, beat others up, robbed banks, dealt drugs and lied in their police reports.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US attorney's office in Los Angeles, told BBC News Online: "The federal investigation into allegations of misconduct in the Rampart Division CRASH unit has not yet concluded.
"There may be additional federal civil rights charges brought in the investigation."
Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries in 1988 in an attempt to wean young Angelenos off the gangs, was invited to talk to Mr Bratton last week.
Father Boyle told BBC News Online: "He's a cop's cop but he's also an astute politician and a quick learner.
"He knows the lie of the land and he knows the landmines to avoid, such as racial profiling."
'No quick fix'
Father Boyle said Mr Bratton admitted there was no "quick fix" to Los Angeles' crime problems, or to the existence of the city's 300 or so gangs.
Father Boyle said Mr Bratton was a larger-than-life character but he said that might be a good thing: "He is just full of himself enough to have the ego to really do this.
Police union welcome
"All the signs are to something good, but, of course, he could turn out to be a disappointment."
She said morale and productivity were both up since his appointment and arrests had risen by 50%.
Ms Grasso said: "We have a significant crime problem at the moment but we will be able to knock it down by mid-year."
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