LOS ANGELES (AP) â€” The mayor and City Council agreed to federal demands to put the beleaguered Police Department under an independent monitor's supervision and instituting reform measures aimed at eliminating brutality, racial profiling and other abuses.
The City Council vote Thursday was 11-2 in favor of the historic agreement, which was reached Tuesday after weeks of negotiations between city and federal officials.
Earlier Thursday, Mayor Richard Riordan said he would reluctantly approve the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. The move will make the LAPD the fourth law enforcement agency, and the largest, to be placed under court monitoring by the Justice Department.
The Justice Department had said it would bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city if it didn't agree to the monitoring and other reforms.
``I am philosophically opposed to this consent decree because it undermines a core belief of mine,'' Riordan said. ``That local government must be accountable to its people, not to a distant bureaucracy.''
Still, he conceded that the decree is probably the best option available to the city as it attempts to cope with the ongoing Rampart scandal, which is the worst police corruption case in city history.
More than 100 convictions have been thrown out and 20 officers have left active duty as a result of the scandal in which anti-gang officers in the city's poor, largely minority Rampart section are said to have shot, beat and planted evidence on innocent people, then lied in court to help convict them of crimes. Four former Rampart officers are on trial for allegedly conspiring to frame innocent people.
The Justice Department began investigating allegations of civil rights abuses and use of excessive force in Los Angeles more than four years ago and the probe was quickened when the Rampart scandal broke.
The federal agency has accused the police department of ignoring previous reform efforts, particularly changes recommended by the Christopher Commission after the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King in 1991. The following year, acquittal of four white officers in the beating led to rioting that left 55 dead, more than 2,000 injured and $1 billion in damage.
``This consent decree provides significant improvements in the management tools for ensuring respectful and effective policing,'' said Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee, who oversees the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. ``Overall, the decree will hold city officials directly accountable to the public and the court for their progress in making historic reforms.''
Under the terms of the 114-page decree, an independent monitor will be hired by next March, provided access to LAPD documents and personnel and charged with publishing a quarterly report on the department's progress. The monitor will oversee the department for five years.
Some of the new guidelines the department must adhere to include:
â€” Upgrading its computer system to track officers' activities and monitor potential misconduct.
â€” Keeping stringent control over the department's anti-gang units.
â€” Prohibiting officers from relying on race, national origin or ethnicity when making traffic and pedestrian stops.
â€” Improving officers' training.
Officials have said the decree could cost as much as $40 million the first year it is implemented and $30 million to $50 million the following year. Riordan has asked the federal government for a one-time, $30 million contribution.
Despite that, council members said drastic, costly action was clearly called for.
``We have too long of a history of unsolved and unresolved problems with our Los Angeles Police Department,'' said Councilwoman Laura Chick, who voted in favor. ``One has to hope that this is the last big step ... to finally self-correct.''
On the Net:
Los Angeles Police Department: http://www.lapdonline.org
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/