By John Antczak
LOS ANGELES — City leaders on Monday celebrated the end of eight years of federal oversight of the Los Angeles Police Department, which had been prompted by U.S. Department of Justice allegations of a long pattern of abuses.
"This is no longer your father's LAPD," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told a City Hall press conference attended by major figures in the effort to meet terms of a consent decree that called for more than 100 reforms to be achieved under scrutiny of an independent monitor and a judge.
The agreement had been expected to last five years, but was extended to eight before U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess released the department from it Friday evening.
Feess also approved a transitional agreement under which the department will report progress to the city's Police Commission, a civilian board that oversees the police force. The judge also maintained jurisdiction over it.
"This is not a probationary period of time," said Chief William Bratton, who is two years into his second five-year term and until now has never been out from under the consent decree.
"I can guarantee that, while reports will be made to the judge over the next approximately two years, he will not find any need to come back into the LAPD. I can guarantee that," Bratton said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said it was disappointed in the judge's decision.
"The department has made substantial progress under Chief Bratton, but there's still too much evidence that skin color makes a difference in who is stopped, questioned and arrested by the LAPD," legal director Mark Rosenbaum said in a statement.
Bratton fired back.
"This department is a model for American policing. I resent the continuing intent to try to infer that this department engages in racial profiling," the chief said.
He said it was possible that an individual officer among thousands might do so, but the organization does not.
"This is a city that has come together on the issue of race - it is coming together around its police department," Bratton said. "Nowhere else in America is the police department leading the coming together of races. So the ACLU needs to move on. The city has moved on."
The consent decree, approved by the City Council in 2000 and by the judge in 2001, was spawned by the Rampart scandal, a huge probe into allegations of corruption among anti-gang officers.
Some serious allegations were proven and others were not, but the fallout included the overturning of numerous criminal convictions that were deemed tainted.
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Coming in the same decade as the 1991 Rodney King beating and the riot spawned by acquittal of officers accused of the beating, Rampart perpetuated a dark image of the LAPD.