This appeared in the LA Daily News, on Sunday, March 31, 2002:
right - we need a new chief
by Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman
email to: Arthur@lacp.org
Two years ago Gen. Colin Powell, in speaking about sinking morale
in the U.S. Armed Forces, said, "The time for pretending is over,
because the ones you can't fool are the troops. The troops know
it. They are voting with their feet."
The same applies to the Los Angeles Police Department.
When Chief Bernard C. Parks took over in mid-1997, he inherited
a force of more than 9,700 sworn officers. Since then, their numbers
have shrunk by more than 1,000. Police Academy graduations declined
from 617 in 1997 to fewer than 170 last year. The number of resignations
soared from just 83 in 1997 to 364 in 2001. Similarly, retirements
more than tripled during Parks' time in office.
What was Chief Parks' response? On Jan. 24, on the KCET (Channel
28) talk show "Life and Times," he said the attrition problems at
LAPD are the same as in all big-city police departments, including
Lee Baca's Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The statistics, however, clearly prove that Parks is wrong.
We recently completed an in-depth survey of more than 20 of the
largest police departments throughout the United States, with emphasis
on issues of size of force, recruitment, resignations and retirements,
officer injuries and illnesses.
We also reviewed data correlating crime rates and officer performance
with personnel and morale issues.
The sad truth is that LAPD stands nearly alone in its misery and
No other major police force is suffering the disastrous shrinkage
and "blue flight" that Los Angeles suffers. Nearly all the other
major cities are steadily maintaining troop strength. Many are actually
Not surprisingly, nearly all other major cities are still experiencing
declining crime rates. Nationwide, crime is now at its lowest point
Police forces nationwide view homicide rates closely because they
are an accurate reporting indicator of violent crime trends. In
the USA as a whole, homicides last year continued to decrease.
By contrast, homicides in Los Angeles started upward in 1999. They
are now entering their fourth consecutive year of increase. The
downward trend that began in 1992 ended in 1998.
Once again, Los Angeles stands alone.
As Chief Parks mentioned the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department,
a comparison of facts will illustrate our point. Also, the LAPD/LASD
comparison is relevant because the two forces are almost identical
in size and share the sprawl and cultural diversity of this region.
Next door at the Sheriff's Department, total sworn officer strength
now stands at 8,900, up from 8,036 in 1997. Parks lost more than
1,000 officers, but LASD achieved a net gain of nearly 900.
Resignations and retirements, for all causes combined, have remained
steady at the Sheriff's Department, running consistently at less
than one-half the attrition rate suffered under Parks.
Moreover, arrests by sheriff's deputies have increased steadily,
between 2 percent and 3 percent per year since 1997; under Parks,
the LAPD is producing an average of 30 percent fewer arrests since
Although Baca leads a nationally acclaimed force and a model for
others, major studies show that the numbers evidencing robust good
health at the Sheriff's Department are not at all unique. Sadly,
Los Angeles is the odd one out.
Between January 1998 and December 2000, non work-related illnesses
and on-the-job injuries at LAPD increased by over 62 percent. Translated
into real money, this meant an increase of more than $21 million
paid out in benefits to a rapidly shrinking police force. For Los
Angeles taxpayers, this means more money for more crime and fewer
A number of recent, reliable studies by major universities, branches
of the US Department of Justice, and the US Department of Labor
have concluded that where sinking job performance combines with
low recruitment, high resignations and retirements, and dramatic
rises in illnesses and injuries, the true culprit is low morale
brought on by failed, oppressive managerial policies.
In business, the situation almost always results in the appointment
of a new CEO.
What is Parks' response? On Jan. 24, he said, "Morale is the problem
and the responsibility of the individual officer."
That would be a strange theory of leadership indeed. By contrast,
Col. Adolf Carlson, a prominent military historian and author at
the Institute for National Strategy Studies, recently wrote in an
INSS article titled "A Chapter Not Yet Written" where he states,
"The practice of blaming subordinates for failure was one of
the least appealing characteristics of failed leaders (throughout
Obviously, morale matters. Don't blame the troops.
Mayor James K. Hahn is right to place the focus on the rise in violent
crime, the shrinking and demoralized LAPD, and the urgent need to
reinstate and expand community policing. Clearly, Hahn's policy
is borne out by the evidence and by history.
We should support the mayor's efforts and give the Los Angeles Police
Department the resources and new leadership it needs to get the
--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human
rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe.
They are consultants and authors on international policing, social
policy and human rights.
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