Bill Bratton's Swearing In Ceremonies

From the Los Angeles Times Tuesday, Bratton Takes Reins at LAPD:

"Bratton, who was officially sworn in at a private City Hall ceremony Friday, donned his midnight blue uniform for the first time Monday for an outdoor celebration that included a police band, bagpipes, officers on horseback, a choir and a helicopter flyover. Gov. Gray Davis, Mayor James K. Hahn, hundreds of dignitaries, including former chiefs, rank-and-file officers and members of the public and media attended."

"Speaking without notes, Bratton repeated his promise to make Los Angeles the safest big city in America--the charge given to him by Hahn. He called on LAPD officers to fulfill the promise "on the side of each and every one of your black and whites ... that world-famous motto: 'To protect and serve.' "

"It is a very thin blue line--9,000 for a city this large," Bratton said. "I want to talk very bluntly to you. The citizens of this city need you back in those streets. They don't need you smiling and waving. They need you out of those cars, on those corners, in those parks taking back those streets."

For me, attending the ceremonies was a window into an entirely new and foreign world. I'm grateful I was invited to catch a glimpse of it.

The day began at 9:00 am at the LA Police Academy with a two hour breakfast reception. As expected, there were hundreds of men in blue. There was also live music, supplied by a police band and huge amounts of food. The atmosphere was very jovial.

The entire event was more like a coronation than a swearing in. Bill and his wife, Rikki Klieman, arrived around 9:15. The tv cameras were everyhere, as were the sound booms the audio guys run around with that look like giant dustmops.

I enjoyed meeting the Mayor, James Hahn and the early 60's singer Bobby Sherman who has been an LA police officer for the past 15 years. (Photo here.)

The swearing in ceremony began with a changing of the color guard by the police. On the dais were LA Mayor Hahn, California Governor Gray Davis, the entire LA Police Commission, the entire LA city council (except for one who couldn't make it), the former LAPD police chiefs and some other folks.

All were introduced and applauded. I was right up front, in the VIP section, along with criminal defense lawyer friends Mickey Sherman of Connecticut and Murray Richman of the Bronx. The three of us were there because we are friends of Rikki's and Bill's, not because we are enamored with police. And the three of us believe that if anyone can turn the LAPD around, it's Bill.

Governor Gray Davis spoke first, inviting Bill to come to him for funding and resources to fix the beleagured police department. Mayor Hahn was next, and then came Rick Caruso, the head of the Police Commission, who pinned the badge on Bill.

A word about Caruso. I had assumed the police commission would be composed of cops, and that Caruso, as its head, would be a high-up cop. Totally wrong, as I found out by sitting next to Caruso's brother-in-law during the ceremony. The police commission in LA, which is the group that makes the recommendation of three finalists for Chief to the Mayor, is a citizen's group, one composed of very influential and politically minded citizens. Rick Caruso's real occupation is that of real estate developer and magnate. He is a very articulate speaker. And as I'll discuss later, when we get to the party, he is an incredibly gracious host.

The only disconcerting moment of the ceremony was when former police chief Daryl Gates, who I disliked intensely as police chief, was introduced. The cops clapped louder for him than for anyone else on the dais. If I hadn't known before, I certainly realized then that Bill faces some large obstacles in his new job.

Caruso introduced Bill. Bill is a great public speaker and one who doesn't use notes. Bill gave LA such a buildup that I was almost sorry I didn't live there to take pride in it. After the praise for LA, Bill said the cops would have to stop driving around in their cars waving and smiling at people and get back into the streets, interacting with the public and making arrests where warranted. He said the police have to learn to work with the community. He said the department can't succeed at fighting crime unless there is a partnership between the police and and the community. He said they would go into the streets and take them back from the gangs and that he would make sure the officers were safe by providing them with a lot more training.

That is a big issue in LA--the gangs. None of the LA residents I spoke to believe the gangs can be taken out. They say the gangs are too powerful and their members too willing to risk their own lives.

Bill thinks he can take down the gangs. He is going to start by going after graffiti artists. I certainly have some civil liberty concerns about this "broken windows" method of policing, but am willing to give Bill the benefit of the doubt because I know he strongly believes in constitutional rights. Maybe he can accomplish a reduction in crime and a dismantling of the gangs fairly without a wholesale violation of civil rights. I hope so.

After Bill's speech, the bagpipes played and the procession started off the field. It was a gorgeous, sunny day in LA which contributed to my overall feeling that the ceremony had been uplifting and a much needed shot in the arm for LA.

I could sense the crowd's support for Bill. It was fun seeing Rikki, such an independent career woman and a former tough criminal defense attorney, up there on the dais in the role of supportive wife. She was loving every minute of it.

If you want to read about the evening party, here's more:

The party was at Rick Caruso's home. Even if his brother hadn't forewarned me, I would have figured it out the instant I arrived that Mr. Caruso was not a police officer.

I say "home" but it was an old and huge mansion in Brentwood, likely one of the originals. The incredibly landscaped grounds went on and on. On the first floor there was sitting room after sitting room, huge expanses of marble with gleaming hardwood floors, exquisite furnishings, multiple fireplaces and the highest ceilings and largest center staircase imaginable. It reminded me of a cross between Tara in Gone With the Wind and a state capitol.

Delicious gourmet food was served in every room. The bar outside was beyond full with the finest brands. Waitstaff was everywhere.

There were very few police in uniform at the reception. Most of the police present were security. A few hundred people in all attended, including the Mayor and other political dignitaries. I met Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver who were very friendly, seemed to know a lot of the guests and stayed a long time --I didn't get the sense they were just making an appearance.

Legal thriller author and Beverly Hills attorney Robert Tannenbaum was fun to talk to. I found out from his wife that he used to be the mayor of Beverly Hills. John Miller of ABC's 20/20 was everywhere. I really enjoyed sitting and speaking with Kathleen Brown, former California gubernatorial candidate and sister of former Calif. Governor Jerry Brown.

I had a terrific time speaking with 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Harry Pregreson, who extolled the virtues of his former law clerk Mark Silverstein, who is legal counsel for the ACLU in Denver. He asked for my business card, which of course I forgot to bring, so he swapped name tags with me.

I also saw some old friends, like one of my very favorite LA lawyers, Howard Weitzman (who represented OJ in the beginning but then bailed from the case.) I spent some time getting to know Gloria Allred, a civil lawyer in LA mostly representing women who are the victims of one thing or another. We have debated on tv a lot but had never met in person. She also represented the last LA police chief, Bernard Parks, whose contract was not renewed which resulted in the search for a new chief and the appointment of Bill.

Rikki gave a great impromptu speech at the party, and totally impressed the crowd, particularly the women. She talked about the emotions she went through from the time Bill told her he wanted to apply for the Chief's job up through the moment that she realized that this was his dream, she knew he would be successful at it and she just couldn't say no to it-- which in turn led her to decide to give up her Court TV anchor job when her contract is up and her life in New York to move to LA to be with Bill.

That's it for now, if I think of more, I'll add it.

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