LAPD Getting it Right

Though California state government may be truly dysfunctional, one much-maligned institution has managed to reinvent itself and flourish this decade: the LAPD.

The town that once conjured up images of Bloods and Crips shooting it out as an indifferent and racist police force sat by has seen homicides drop 41%, rapes by 37% and aggravated assaults by a whopping 63% over the last six years. In 2008, Los Angeles had the fewest property crimes since 1959 and the lowest level of violent crime since 1969 - amazing given the plight of the economy. And the benefits are being felt in the city's toughest neighborhoods: Compton, with 65 gangs crammed into 10 square miles, saw its lowest number of homicides in 25 years last year. All this has happened despite a much lower number of cops per capita - and a much larger area to patrol - than New York.

Police Chief Bill Bratton deserves a huge amount of the credit for this amazing transformation, but the department has also remade itself in the image of the diverse city it serves. Over a decade ago, the LAPD was 80% white. Today that number is 38%, with 41% of the force composed of Latino officers, 12% black, 7% Asian. Almost 20% of officers are women.

The LAPD has put a lot of effort into fixing its poor image in the communities where it was most detested - admitting to its checkered past in minority communities. And its strategies are working.