After several years of court-ordered reforms, the Los Angeles Police Department has improved its public image and made significant improvements in the performance and attitudes of its officers, says a new Harvard University study reported by the Los Angeles Times. In asking for the study and giving researchers unusual access to the department, Police Chief William Bratton had hoped it would find that the department has changed for the better since being forced eight years ago by federal officials to adopt a sweeping set of checks and balances resulting from the Rampart corruption scandal. Bratton increasingly has chafed under the stigma of federal oversight.
With many of his other endeavors falling short, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has made a promise to add 1,000 new police officers the cornerstone of his administration. The Harvard study, written by Christopher Stone, highlighted police statistics and the results of surveys of residents and officers that, he said, pointed to a dramatic about-face by the LAPD. There was a nearly 50% increase in the overall number of traffic and pedestrian stops made by officers between 2002 and 2008, as well as a similar increase in the percentage of those stops that resulted in arrests. Those numbers, Stone said, along with the responses of officers in surveys, disproved early concerns that officers would be hamstrung by the audits and reports called for in the federal consent decree.