ACLU Bill Bratton Police

Crowds, Glass Houses and Basic Cop Math


As we head into a few days of (hopefully) no dramatic LAPD news
, here are a few wrap ups on this week’s remaining department issues:


At yesterday’s City Council meeting, Bill Bratton said that he is making Deputy Chief Michael Hillman the head of a newly-created Critical Management Bureau
—which will now be the entity called out to do future crowd control instead of those Metro guys. Hillman who, despite his vaguely militaristic vibe and his penchant for gee-whiz gadgets (the man loves helicopters), is earnest, likable and very well-regarded by the troops. Plus he’s something of a national expert in crowd management.

Whatever functional difference the Hillman appointment does or doesn’t make
, it’s another signal that Bratton takes the various intricacies of the May Day problem seriously.


The LA Times reports that, at that same meeting, former Chief and present day City Council member
, Bernard Parks brought his own show-and-tell set up to play after Bratton and Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell repeated the May Day Power Point that they’d give the day before to the Police Commission:

Some council members suggested that a long-term problem with Los Angeles Police Department culture was involved. Councilman Bernard C. Parks showed a video from community members suggesting that the melee was the latest in a series of excessive-force incidents during Bratton’s nearly five-year tenure.

Now we all know that Bernard Parks is genuinely powerless in the face of his Katrina-sized hatred of Bill Bratton. (Keep coming back, Bernie. It works, if you work it.) Still, how Parks managed to say this stuff with a straight face is, in itself, an accomplishment—since, to counter the accusations, all Bratton had to do is turn around to the video-wielding Councilman and utter a single word: RAMPART

Note to Bernie: Try following the lead of Rudy Giuliani, who famously loathed Bill Bratton too
, yet in a KFWB interview this week, Rudy couldn’t have sounded more kissy-kissy. Disingenuous? Probably. But also practical. And far less tedious for the rest of us.


One last thing: Yes, the LAPD needs to take a hard look at some of the subtle—and not so subtle— mindsets
still favored by too many of its officers that, when given free rein, lead to incidents like May Day melees…..BUT..

….Whatever it takes, as a city, we’ve got to give the department money for more cops.
(By the same token, the department has to also get more creative with its recruiting so that, if we give them the money, they can get enough good men and women into the academy and out on the streets.)

I was reminded of this yesterday afternoon
when I got the newest press release from the LA Police Protective League (which has, by the way, been on remarkably good behavior after weeks of being extremely huffy about anything relating to May One).


“One of the lessons of the May Day incident is that we have sacrificed training in order to have enough officers available everyday to protect the city. This is a real cost of being understaffed. We need the flexibility to be able to keep our communities safe and at the same time to be able to rotate officers into training modules. While recruitment will help us down the road, we also need to be realistic about the need for overtime now to maintain constant staffing and crowd control, and to allow us to provide adequate training for all of our officers.”

Not having enough officers to go around doesn’t excuse cops from unseemly behavior, but the ratio of officers to residents is key if this department is ever going to break its hardcore addiction to Command and Control.


  • “Not having enough officers to go around doesn’t excuse cops from unseemly behavior, but the ratio of officers to residents is key ….”

    As you’ve written about the ‘warrior/knucklehead’ mindset that is problematic for portions of the LAPD and, perhaps, Metro in particular, this issue of sufficient staffing kept creeping to the back of my mind. To borrow a metaphor from agriculture, it’s tough to keep your cow numbers up. Organic systems produce particular management challenges particularly with respect to replacements.

    Public entities rarely have any slack in their organizations. It’s not hard to demand that a public entity behave more like a business, but it is very hard to apply normal business practice principles to a public agency, because public agencies don’t have any slack. Without a profit motive, and without the ability to build reserves, public agencies maintain their budgets by keeping every FTE they have filled. And, they are under constant pressure to defend the budgets they have. You either spend it, or someone decides that you really don’t need it, and you lose it.

    I’ve been in innumerable public sector situations where there is this careful dance where wanting to replace an inadequate employee has to be balanced among: the hiring and firing policies of the agency, the particular place you are wrt the budget cycle/budget calendar, what you know about the pool of recent applicants, and the time it takes to train a new employee to absorb everything the currently less than adequate employee is doing and more, in the face of a steady stream of office ‘traffic’ that won’t slow down simply because you’re ‘limping.’ Public sector unions are often cited as being the root of the problem, and yet it makes sense that they exist when it is so terribly easy to politicize the hiring practices of a public entity (the current DOJ circumstance as an example).

    So, where do bad apples come from? Sometimes we recruit and hire them. Sometimes we actually grow and nurture them. Despite the extensive care given to screening applicants, some real nut-jobs get through. I’ve actually run that gauntlet; tests of math and language competency, full scale FBI background check, the California Multiphasic Personality Inventory, lie detector test, a session with a staff psychologist, and panel interview. You’d think anyone with a wrinkle anywhere would be unmasked somewhere in that process (Yes, I was offered the job I applied for. No, I didn’t accept it.), but obviously, they aren’t always [like me :)]. Take an otherwise fairly good recruit and subject them to totally inadequate/neglectful/abusive supervision, or put them in with a bunch of soured, burned out, cynical coworkers, and you can grow your own. In those circumstances, the healthiest of those good recruits will simply step off the merry-go-round and redirect their career plans.

    So, I hold this reality in the back of my mind as I think about the LAPD and the job Bratton has before him. Bratton may be the most skilled, most charismatic, most far-sighted person on the face of the earth. And, he could have a hundred equally skilled, charismatic, leadership-endowed folks working directly under him. But it’s where the rubber meets the road – the front line and their direct supervision – that makes or breaks a department. And, trying to manage that front line from afar is profoundly difficult when the tools you have to wield (see the part above about no slack) are so primitive and clumsy.

  • But…but…what did L.A. do with its share of the 100,000 cops that Bill Clinton added to our nation’s cities? Oh, that’s right. Actually 100,000 were never hired, many went to suburban cities where there were no crime problems, a lot of the money went for administrative programs, and Clinton “forgot” to fund the program beyond the start-up and his administration.

    Anyway, if more money was the answer to better this-‘n-that of our cities (particularly police and teachers), we’d have the safest and best educated populations in the world.

    Why, oh why, do liberals think that more money and higher taxes will solve everything, especially when the main problems are with sorry people rather than, in this case, sorry police? Are liberals afraid to admit personal responsibility is really the issue, for which that could be addressed with more success than more cops?

    Quit feeling sorry for people who are here illegally and start holding them personally accountable and deport them. Let me suggest boating them to China, from where it will take years for them to make their way back.

    I have all of these good ideas and I never get thanks.

  • Woody I seem to recall that Dick Riordan got something like near a thousand officers from that program. He was the Mayor then – in case that news hasn’t made it to Dogpatch, er Atlanta. Problem is that wasn’t nearly enough. When Riordan became mayor the LAPD was around 8,000. I think its nearer to 10,000 now and thats not enough. Bratton – who commanded 30,000 plus in NYC – says that to do the job he’d like here would require a force of around 18,000 or nearly double of what he has to work with. And the Council won’t give him the money for that and it wouldtake longer than he’s got, anyway, to get up to that number with quality hires. One thing Riordan did was cut corners on hiring because he promised that 10,000 in one term.

    Bernie Parks? Celeste, You must be kidding!

  • Very thoughtful stuff, Listener.

    RLC, What did you think I was saying about Bernie Parks? I admit, I seem to have a hard time passing up an opportunity to slam the man. (It’s something of a character weakness of mine, no doubt. But I’m not particularly sorry.)

  • rlc, I find it hard to believe that L.A. got a full one percent of the new police from Clinton’s short-lived vote buying scheme covering the entire nation. Guess what. If L.A. had 18,000 police, they would say that they needed another 5,000. Excuses and passing blame never stops.

  • Murder Rate – Lower than Switzerland

    It is always interesting to compare murder rate per capita of the gun loving states like North Dakota, Montana and Maine to the rest of the world. (Pokey felt like researching today.)

    Colombia 617.8 / million
    South Africa 496.0 / million
    Jamaica 324.2 / million
    Venezuela 316.1 / million
    Russia 201.5 / million
    Mexico 130.2 / million

    Maryland 91.6 / million
    California 66.3 / million
    Texas 57.0 / million
    USA 42.8 / million

    Finland 28.3 / million
    Hawaii 18.8 / million
    France 17.3 / million

    Montana 17.1 / million
    South Dakota 14.2 / million

    Italy 12.8 / million
    Spain 12.2 / million
    Germany 11.6 / million
    Netherlands 11.1 / million
    Denmark 10.7 / million
    Norway 10.7 / million
    Switzerland 9.2 / million

    North Dakota 7.9 / million (States – multiply by 100) (Nation – multiply by 1000)

    These statistics and others can be found on and where are great sites.

  • Pokey, you are an *ace* at web research. Thanks for the links. I sometimes wonder where you find your stats. I appreciate your willingness to share them!

  • Now those stats would be interesting if they compared GUN deaths per million and not simply murders per million. Gee, guess what? The murder rate is lower in rural states! Now there is a real piece of news! Glad to know that North Dakota is safer than Columbia but then the North Dakota Liberation Front has been pretty inactive lately and the narcotraffic there is pretty tame compared to Cali and Medallien.

    Next Comparison of sunstroke deaths between Arizona and Maine!

Leave a Comment