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Chief’s Message August 2009
Since it was first commissioned in 1940, the current Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) badge is arguably the most recognizable badge in policing. Officers in departments across the nation wear badges with distinct LAPD influence. The familiar LAPD badge has inspired authors, screenwriters, and thousands of young men and women in pursuit of a police career. The most significant change to the badge came about in 1973 when the designations of “Policeman” and “Policewoman” were retired. After 1973, all new badges below the rank of Detective and Sergeant read “Police Officer.”
On that special day in the Academy when the badge is pinned on for the first time, I encourage every recruit to wear it with pride and to never do anything to tarnish it.
One of the most accomplished men in Hollywood ever to wear the LAPD Badge was ironically never a police officer. He was of course actor Jack Webb. For an eight-year run starting in 1951, Jack Webb played the role of Sergeant Joe Friday and then came back again in the 1960’s for several years.
In August, the United States Postal Service will honor Dragnet, among other classic television shows, in their 20-stamp Early TV Memories collection. The stamp commemorating Dragnet, will depict Sergeant Joe Friday in his classic "just the facts, ma'am," stare. Department personnel, families and stamp collecting enthusiasts are encouraged to join us on August 11, 2009, for the Dragnet stamp dedication ceremony at the Elysian Park Police Academy. It promises to be quite a day.
One of the things Joe Friday understood is that public safety is a primary responsibility of government. In the City of Los Angeles, 27 cents of every budget dollar is invested in police services, more than double the next most expensive City service. Police are an investment. The return on the investment is record low crime rates, unprecedented community confidence and a stronger economy. But when a budget crisis comes to a country, a state and a city, it also comes to a police department. In every corner of the LAPD, people are talking about what the budget crisis will mean to them, but none more than in the civilian ranks of the LAPD.
I want to emphasize the fact that this Department would grind to a halt without our civilians. There are no unimportant civilian jobs in this Department. Without Civilians: Calls don’t get dispatched. Cars don’t run. Evidence doesn’t get analyzed, Paychecks don’t get deposited, and the list could go on and on.
I have been reluctant to talk about the crisis because the situation is still in flux, making today’s fact, tomorrow’s rumor. As I write this article, the Department is still in the hole $153 million or about 14 percent of our overall budget. To close this gap, we have cut our salary account to the tune of about $135 million from the sworn account and $18 million from the civilian account.
At a certain point, a police department cannot “do more with less” and neither can a family or individual. We can tighten our belts, but eventually hard-won momentum is lost. Hopefully we will come to some definitive resolution on our budget in the not too distant future so that every Department member knows where they stand. I’m sorry that the process has been so frustrating and has gone on for so long. Even in the midst of fiscal crisis and uncertainty you, the men and women of the Department, still continue to perform to the highest standards.
In the last few weeks, the world’s eyes were on the City of Los Angeles. Whether we’re talking about the Lakers championship parade or the Michael Jackson memorial services, you showed the world how major events should be policed. What would normally have taken weeks or months to plan and execute, you did in a matter of days.
We worked with our partners from allied agencies and public and private service providers, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metrolink, the California Highway Patrol, and Staples Center just to name a few.
In the days that followed the Michael Jackson memorial, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial that pointed out several things that I agree with whole heartedly: You handled the event “flawlessly” and you are indeed, “a terrific police department.” Who would have ever thought we would hear that well deserved and appropriate high praise from the LA Times. It’s a new day and a new LAPD.