Report: Reform at LAPD slow, painful

June 1, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EDT

From CNN Correspondent Charles Feldman

police officer motorcyle cop

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Five years after a special commission recommended sweeping changes for the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the Rodney King affair, a new report says some progress has been made -- but not nearly enough.

The good news for the department is that it has changed in many positive ways in recent years. For example, more women and minorities fill its ranks. But, according to the Board of Police Commissioners report, change hasn't come easily -- or quickly.

"Overall, the LAPD is moving ... slowly and painfully at times, but moving in the right direction," said Merrick Bobb, who authored the report.

Although the number of arrests has declined significantly, the report says that in percentage terms, the police are using the same amount of force as in the past, only now they use pepper spray instead of a baton. And, says the report, the LAPD doesn't get high marks for punishing officers who are caught using excessive force.

The combined effects of the Rodney King incident, its violent aftermath and the O.J. Simpson trial have battered morale. The report mentions this, and some police officers agree.


Officer Barri Moore says members of the force are confused and need guidance on how to deal with the community's issues. (102K AIFF or WAV sound)

Police Chief Willie Williams says he views the report as a blueprint for a modified LAPD.

"The areas that are listed as concerns, I look at those as challenges and opportunities for the future," Williams said.

Mayor Richard Riordan said he agrees that whoever leads the LAPD "would do well to follow this report -- to put in sophisticated systems of accountability."

Street scene

But City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said the police chief has been restrained by the mayor.

"I think that were it left to Williams there would be more reform in place, " Ridley-Thomas said.

The commission also stressed that whatever the outcome of ongoing investigations into former Detective Mark Fuhrman's conduct, steps must be taken to prevent those "tinged by bias" from serving on the force.

Fuhrman, a key prosecution witness in the O.J. Simpson trial, was portrayed as a rogue, racist police officer by the defense.

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