Judge concerned about role in LAPD reform
LOS ANGELES – The judge selected to enforce federally ordered reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department said he should have more control over how the changes are monitored.
U.S. District Judge Gary Feess has refused to sign the federal consent decree mandating reforms for the department, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
The consent decree was finalized by the City Council in November after months of talks with the U.S. Department of Justice. Officials are worried that Feess refusal to sign the document may delay its implementation.
Feess was chosen in November to oversee the implementation of a far-reaching package of reforms aimed at ending brutality, racial profiling and other abuses by the LAPD.
However, he said he won’t sign the order launching the reform process until he is sure he will be have a say in who will act as the independent monitor of the LAPD’s progress.
Currently, the agreement between the city and federal governments leaves that decision up to the city and the Justice Department.
But Feess said he is hesitant to agree to those terms because he will have work with whoever is chosen.
”I won’t sign it that way,” he told lawyers for both sides at a Dec. 19 hearing. ”I’m not suggesting anything nefarious … But this is something I’m going to be living with for a long time – at least five years.”
Feess also told city and federal lawyers that he wanted clarification on certain language within the consent decree.
For example, the document requires the LAPD to establish a system to spot officers engaged in so-called ”at-risk behavior.” Feess suggested that the two sides confer with the Police Protective League to come up with a precise definition for that term.
Lawyers from the city attorney’s office said it is not unusual for a judge to quibble with the terms of federal consent decrees and they want too avoid a situation in which city and federal officials will have to rewrite the decree.
”We want to be able to accommodate the judge, whom we respect and trust,” said Tim McOsker, chief deputy city attorney. ”But we want to make sure we hold to the process where the city and the Justice Department have a full and fair selection of the monitor.”
Deputy Mayor Ben Austin, spokesman for Mayor Richard Riordan, said the decree is clear and all sides ”should follow the letter of the law as it is laid out in the agreement.”
Although the consent decree is technically not enforceable until Feess signs it, city officials say they would like to have a monitor in place by March 1.