After aggressive tactics against gangs backfired, Los Angeles police are trying a softer, more sophisticated approach to crack down on gang-related street violence, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officers are being more careful about whom they go after and more mindful of how they are perceived.
As Police Chief William J. Bratton rolls out new programs designed to suppress violence in the summer’s hottest months, police are trying what one official calls a “surgical and strategic” approach. The Times says that community reaction after recent anti-gang operations suggests that the police face a tough and delicate challenge if they want to avoid further alienating an already skeptical and often frustrated community.
Rather than saturate neighborhoods with police to intimidate gangs, which earned the LAPD a reputation for indiscriminate harassment, officers tried to tread lightly this time. They carried warrants – zeroing in on only a few individuals rather than conducting mass sweeps – and tried to show more consideration for law-abiding residents. “There is nothing new under the sun with respect to police work. But you can package it and sell it differently,” said an official. “We want the community to have a comfort level with what we are doing.” Police so far have not received any formal complaints – a sharp contrast to years past. Declares Bratton: “We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past and line up every black and Latino kid against a wall just because they are dressed like a gang member.”