Tense race relations following the Rodney King beating quickly made the Los Angeles Police Department one of the most notorious law enforcement organizations of the 1990s. But the New York Police Department may have just dethroned its southern California counterpart thanks to Eric Garner’s chokehold death at the hands of police officer Daniel Pantaleo.
As New York City grapples with its police-community relations following Garner's death, the Big Apple could learn a thing or two from LA's progress in the last two decades. In a HuffPost Live conversation on Thursday, USC law professor Jody Armour said that Los Angeles’ trajectory since the Rodney King riots serves as a prime example for the NYPD.
“We need to celebrate [the success of the LAPD] and make sure that New York, that now has [police chief Bill] Bratton, doesn’t move towards a broken windows policy, but start to emulate the LAPD. I never thought I’d hear myself saying that,” Armour said.
Taking a more serious tone, Armour suggested that Los Angeles’ successful community relations approach is one that should be spread to police departments across the United States.
While Bratton came to Los Angeles as a broken-windows policy supporter who pledged to focus additional police forces on high-crime areas, he embraced the consent decree, which placed the LAPD under strict federal oversight stemming from the 1999 Rampart scandal. After officers from the Rampart Division were revealed to have abused suspects, tampered with evidence and committed perjury, the LAPD underwent a serious overhaul, much of which was spearheaded by Bratton.
“Bratton knows it. He came out to LA in 2002 from a broken windows background, but the consent decree made him not follow that particular policy and adopt a different one,” Armour told host Nancy Redd.
As police chief of the LAPD, Bratton made race relations a priority and routinely met with black leaders within church and community circles. By 2009, the LAPD’s approval ratings greatly increased since the days of the Rampart controversy and LA riots. Eight in 10 registered voters said that they "strongly approve" or "somewhat approve" of police performance in Los Angeles, while percentages of black and Latino voters who approve of the police department rose by double digits.
“The crime has gone down ... with a community-oriented approach, not the paramilitary broken windows approach. So we have the empirical evidence before us. We need to learn from it and make sure that it’s spread across the nation,” Armour added.
Learn more about the L.A.P.D. and Los Angeles gang activity by watching HuffPost Live’s full conversation here.
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