The police department once known for beating Rodney King has resuscitated its public image by reaching out to the minority communities it once antagonized.
In the five years since Chief William Bratton took the force's top post, Angelenos' opinions about the department have improved significantly. Nearly 8 in 10 registered voters say they "strongly approve" or "somewhat approve" of the LAPD's performance today – an 18 percent rise since 2005, according to a Los Angeles Times poll released Tuesday.
"This is fabulous news and serves as a model for the entire police community of America to study and copy," says Mary Powers, director of the National Coalition on Police Accountability. "Los Angeles's police problems seemed so entrenched for so long that many doubted anyone could bring around such a dramatic change."
Los Angeles has long been notorious for having one of the lowest police-to-citizens ratios among major American cities. But with Mr. Bratton's encouragement, the city has expanded its police ranks to historic highs. He has also helped lower crime in every category by using an array of technology to gather data and analyze it, helping him deploy his force more intelligently.
Yet Najee Ali, an activist in the black community who has often been at odds with the police, attributes the reinvention of the LAPD's image to Bratton's efforts to meet with community leaders regularly – particularly when there has been a controversy or a police shooting in a minority neighborhood. He says the LAPD has expanded its cultural sensitivity training and recruited a wider variety of races. A majority of recruits are now Latino.