Hahn's right ...
... we need a new chief


This appeared in the LA Daily News, on Sunday, March 31, 2002:

Hahn's right - we need a new chief
by Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman
email to:

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 atrophy.

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 expanding.

Not surprisingly, nearly all other major cities are still experiencing declining crime rates. Nationwide, crime is now at its lowest point since 1967.

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 1997.

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 arrests.

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 history)."

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 job done.


--- 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.

For additional information or a complete list of references, contact:

Dr. Arthur Jones