Chief Bratton - Out in the Community
Hollenbeck hears from, and speaks to, the Chief


Chief Bratton - Out in the Community

Hollenbeck hears from, and speaks to, the Chief and Commission

by Bobbie Logan and Bill Murray

Several members of the LA Community Policing forum were in attendance at a number of recent community meetings including the "Change of Command" ceremony on Monday, the Police Commission meeting in Hollenbeck Division held Tuesday night, and the Reseda area Townhall event sponsored by West Valley Division's C-PAB on Wednesday.

At each event, Chief William Bratton spoke eloquently about his growing understanding of the state of the LAPD, and about how he intends to have his Department "take back the streets" in every neighborhood.

On the evening of October 29, just one day after the City's official "Change of Command" ceremony, Chief Bratton attended his first Police Commission meeting. It was hosted out in Hollenbeck's Boyle Heights community by Resurrection Church.

Monsignor John Moretta welcomed the Commission and Chief Bratton. He talked about the effects of increased violent crime on the local community. He noted there are 38 recognized gangs in the area, and many of the residents simply live in a constant state of fear.

As Father John said, "We want our streets back, we want to feel safe."

More than 40 individuals spoke to the Commission regarding their serious concern over the violent crime in the Hollenbeck area. Many described their fear in their daily lives ... of going to the market, going to school, walking down the street, working in their yard, and even sleeping in their homes.

While a great deal of fear was described, credit was also given to the Hollenbeck officers and Captain Paul Pesqueira for doing a great job in the area.
Chief Bratton spoke to the troops

"Change of Command" ceremony
at the Academy, 10/28/02

"My commitment to you is to work night and day with the finest cops in America, to truly make this City, undisputedly, the safest, and greatest, city in America."
"The citizens of this city need you back in those streets ... they don't need you smiling and waving ... they need you out of those cars, on those corners, in those parks, taking back those streets that unfortunately so many of them have been lost."
"You're going to see a lot of me, nights, days, weekends, but when you see me, I will not be there checking up on you. I'll be there, shoulder-to-shoulder with you, learning from you, as I have a lot to learn."
"If this City goes, we all go, but the direction we want it to go is toward the goal that the Mayor has clearly established for all of us, to make it the safest city in America."
"I ask every cop in this Department to work with me, to work with this community ... together there is nothing we can not accomplish."

It was obvious the Hollenbeck community is engaged with the officers, and understands well the concepts of community based policing. The parking lots were quickly filled, as were all the available spots on surrounding streets, and some residents turned away.

But well over 500 individuals packed into the hall at Resurrection Church ... with others standing outside.

The members of the Commission and Chief Bratton vowed to do everything they could to reduce crime and gang activity in Hollenbeck.

They also vowed to return to meet again with the community.

Commission President Rick Caruso told those assembled, "It's important for us, as a Commission, the civilian Commission that oversees this Department, to hear as much as we can from the local community. It's also important to us to let you know, that we sincerely care about your community and we understand the problems that you have had in your community with rising crime, particularly gang related crime, narcotics, and the terrible loss of life that you've had in your community since the beginning of the year."

"We made a commitment to Father Moretta, that we're going to do everything we can to get more and more resources into your area to attempt to reduce the violent crime."

"From the Chief's perspective and this Commission's perspective, we will absolutely do everything we can to start taking back these neighborhoods. There is going to be a new day in LAPD, it started today with Chief Bratton's first day, and hopefully you will see a meaningful difference in your neighborhoods really soon."

Here is the entire talk given by Chief Bratton at the Hollenbeck Police Commission meeting, followed by some of the comments made by community members.

Chief of Police, William Bratton:

  "It is indeed a pleasure to be here, my first Commission meeting in this neighborhood. This neighborhood, as you are well aware, has suffered certainly far more than it's share of violence and disorder, and I'm here to reaffirm to you in my new and recent capacity as Police Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, that we will do everything is our power, working with you to fulfill the dream of Boyle Heights, to restore safety to your neighborhood."

"Yesterday, Chief Pomeroy was at the swearing in ceremony that I attended left the Los Angeles Police Department. Among his accomplishments during his too brief time as the acting Chief of this Department, was to begin to reverse the growth in crime trend that this city, this Department and this neighborhood has been experiencing."

"It was a very good first step."

"The rate of increase has begun to decline. Crime report numbers that I am reporting to the Commission this evening indicate that year-to-date, 2002 versus the same period of time in 2001, one-year percentage gain rate, it has been a 2.7% overall increase in crime. As recently as four or five months ago, that increase has been almost 7%. So the rate of increase has been declining."

"We are looking forward to a time when the actual rate of crime, the number of incidents, begins to decline, and I am optimistic with many of the changes that Mayor Hahn is insisting that the Department go through, the Police Commission is supporting, that I embrace, and the partnership that we are seeking with you, the community, that we in fact can begin to seek meaningful declines in crime."

"The Police Department … by the way, I apologize, I do not speak Spanish, I do not speak Italian (audience laughter), I'm Irish but I don't speak Irish. I do speak a form of Bostonian ... and in that language my commitment, my promise to you is to work very hard with the best police officers in the world, in the best City in the world, and certainly one of the greatest neighborhoods in this City, to make it a much safer place for you and your children and your families. That is the new commitment that we have to you."

"I hope, in the months ahead, when I come back to report crime statistics, that we can reduce, significantly, the number of crosses on that display (indicating the Alter of the Dead), so that when we return next year we're here to celebrate, rather than to mourn. Once again, that is my commitment to you." (applause)

"I also read, with great interest, the report that was prepared for the Monsignor by several consultants about proposals for gang reduction activity.

(referring to a letter and a report written by LACP's Dr. Arthur Jones)
Read the Letter ---> To Monsignor John Moretta Oct. 23, 2002
Read the Report ---> Gang Violence Reduction Sept. 17, 2002

There are many excellent ideas in that proposal, and as I work to prioritize the focus of this Department on gang violence, the Mayor has insisted, and I concur, and the Police Commission, the supporting prioritization above all other areas is going after the gangs, going after the violence that they develop, going after the quality of life deterioration that they bring to all of your neighborhoods."

"There are some excellent ideas, Monsignor, in that document, and I look forward to encompassing some of them in the Department initiatives in the weeks and months ahead."

Here are just a few of the comments made by community members who spoke during the Public Comment period at the Hollenbeck Police Commission meeting:

Dr. Johnson:

  "My plea to you is, in addition to suppressing crime, I hope you will deal with the underlying causes. 80% of the kids who wind up in this situation (gangs) can't read. They are functionally illiterate and they have very little opportunity to go 'up' in the world, or make anything of themselves and I think we can do better than that. I hope that you will see fit to support programs like CLEAR, like Cease Fire, which offer a stick, but also a carrot, so that kids can learn to read, get an education, get some job training, get rid of the tattoos, get some drug counseling and turn their lives around ... it's possible to do that. So I would urge you please to consider that in addition to simply going after crime. I think crime is the end result of a lot of circumstances. I think we have an opportunity to do better."

Monica Harmon:

  "To get to the bottom line… The community of Maryland was under siege by a sniper attack for over 20 days. The residents of Boyle Heights have been under attack by homegrown terrorists, the gangs. They hear shots daily, at night; they hear helicopters over their homes at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning, sometimes three times a week. They hear screeching cars driving fast down their neighborhoods. Our senior citizens can't walk at night anymore, the way they used to, because they're afraid of being mugged and robbed by these gangbangers. The children can't play outside in certain areas because they're afraid of possible drive-bys."

"Two and a half weeks ago I was leaving one community meeting at 8:00 at night, going to another, driving down 1st Street, four blocks away from the police station. I heard shots being fired, I turned to my left, and two carloads of gangbangers were shooting at each other going down the street. I ducked, thanked the Lord I wasn't a casualty and called it in on my cell. This is what's happening in this community and sadly, if half of those 41 homicides were children, would it have taken us this long to be sitting here having this meeting? I'm thankful that you guys are here. We support the officers because we know they're backed up. They just don't have the resources. We need prevention."

"An 11 year-old at our Bravo summit (the Raising A Community event) said this one thing that put everything in perspective … He stood up and said, 'We spend so much time, we spend so much money arresting gangbangers and throwing them in jail, why don't we spend that money preventing them from getting there in the first place?' We need to educate the kids. We need to start at the elementary school level, we need to give them role models, we need to tell them about what graffiti is doing."

"There are some great things about Boyle Heights. Most of the residents, a lot of them here, a lot of them at Resurrection Neighborhood Watch, have lived in this community fifty years, in the same house, in the same neighborhood. There is stability in Boyle Heights, there is business here that has been in the same location for over forty years. The people here are supportive of each other. We go to the same events and to the same meetings day in and day out to try and do something about it. We need your help. Thank you so much for coming."

Dr. Arthur Jones:

  "It is indeed a time of hope for this community, particularly for Boyle Heights."

"No one can do it alone, no police force is an island just because society is, and they need your help. And I know you are willing to give that now."

A "gray panther":

  "I just want to say, in reference to Captain Pesqueira of the Hollenbeck Division, with the minimal manpower they have had, through this recession and shortage of policeman, they have done a hell of a good job in trying to protect our community."

Female community member:

  "Chief Bratton, we also share your vision."

LA Bridges Rep:

  (about educating youth) "We hope to work together, we hope to balance it out to where it works with all communities."

Female community member:

  "I will tell my representatives that it's their responsibility to make their communities a better community. You better get off the burrito, you better learn to get to Margaritaville and be in cheeseburger paradise because there's no better country than this."

Mary Lou Trevas:

  "I have the courage here to stand up and tell you that we must continue to work together to stop the violence in this community."

Dispatcher, LA City Park Rangers:

  "Chief Bratton, I would like to see more police and park rangers in our city parks and this can only be done by hiring not only more police officers, but peace officer park rangers to alleviate some of the problems in our parks. We need to keep our parks safe for our children who go to these parks for after school activities."

The meeting concluded with remarks from Commission President Rick Caruso, who noted that he was impressed with how gracious the community had been during the Public Comment period, despite having experienced such a high homicide rate and a horrible and ongoing local gang problem. He said if this had happened in his community he'd have spoken with far more anger.

President Caruso stated that he felt the Commission and Department leaders had let Hollenbeck down. But it was obvious the community had a strong relationship with LAPD, and respect of and for both Hollenbeck's commanding officer, Captain
Pesqueira, and the other far-too-few officers that had been assigned to the Division.

His promise, on behalf of the Commission and the Chief, was to find the resources Hollenbeck needed to combat its high incidence of violent crime, especially gang related crime, and to return frequently to the community.