At the Los Angeles Police Department’s First Annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast on Monday, Chief William Bratton cited “what I believe is the emerging new relationship between the [police department] and the city’s African American community — a relationship built on trust and respect as opposed to a history of mistrust, discord and strained relationships,” says Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten. A video commissioned by the police exposed the department’s former chief, William Parker, as the racist he was.
Just over a decade ago, the police department was more than 80 percent white. Today, the force looks a lot more like the city: 40.7 percent of its officers are Latino, 38 percent are white, 12 percent are black, 6.7 percent are Asian and 2.6 percent are “other,” including Native Americans. About 1,800 officers — nearly 19 percent of the force — are women. The senior command staff — deputy chiefs and above — is made up of six white men, three Latinos, two African Americans and one Asian. There are two women, including the deputy chief who oversees training. Rutten says what is significant is the way in which the department has used equal opportunity as part of a comprehensive community policing strategy that has helped push crime down toward historic lows. Rutten says it is time to end a federal consent decree to reform the department that was initiated in 2000 partly by Eric Holder, now Barack Obama’s nominee for Attorney General.