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L.A.’s New 'Eyes and Ears' on Police Misconduct Cases
By: Gene C. Johnson, Jr.
Originally posted 5/30/2003

LOS ANGELES (NNPA)—In his new job as inspector general for the Los Angeles Police Commission, Andre Birotte Jr. and his staff of 35 will investigate about 4,000 complaints of police misconduct on a yearly basis.
The city’s third inspector general, Birotte is the first African American named to the post permanently. His office also reviews all officer-involved shootings and reports its findings directly to the Police Commission. The post was created in 1995, a recommendation of the Christopher Commission convened in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating.
“Andre is a sharp investigator with a vast amount of experience,” said Police Commission President Rick J. Caruso. “His knowledge of the law and analytical skills are a perfect match for the job of inspector general.
After graduating from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 1991, Birotte became a deputy public defender here before joining the U.S. attorney’s office, where he prosecuted fraud and narcotics trafficking cases. He was a unanimous selection of the Police Commission for the permanent inspector general’s job.
“The commission relies heavily on the inspector general as its eyes and ears,” Caruso said. “Andre has proven that he can do this job effectively.”
Birotte said his typical 11-hour work day and occasional working weekend have yet to place much of strain on his six-month-old marriage. He accepted the position with full knowledge of the demanding workload: He was named acting inspector last November, was assistant inspector general since April 2001.
“The workload is pretty significant, pretty demanding,” said the 36-year-old New Jersey native, whose parents immigrated from Haiti while still in their teens. “It’s a challenge that I am looking forward to because I’ve known about it. I know what it takes to get the job done. Obviously, what we need to do is sort of beef up the resources to deal with this overwhelming workload.
“Having said all that, the work is very interesting,” Birotte added. “Particularly for me having been on both sides of the fence, so to speak, advocating as a public defender and a prosecutor.”
Birotte replaces Jeff Eglash, who is now working for a law firm, said Tamryn Catania, a commission spokeswoman.
“I want to continue the good work my predecessors have done, take it to the next level,” said Birotte. “Be less reactive and more proactive. If we get the proper resources and staffing here, we can take a step back from being just reactive and look at the broader issues that effect policing.”
Some of the broader issues include maintaining a good working relationship with the chief of police, he said.
“He knows I’m not afraid to pull punches, he knows I’m going
to call it like I see it,” Birotte said of the city’s new top cop, Bill Bratton. “As long as that relationship stays the same, I don’t think you’re going to see the problems you’ve seen in the past.
“That’s not to put anything against Chief Parks at all,” he said. “To the extent I have any theories about what happened in the past, it may have been a function of just timing and personalities at the time.
“I don’t want to say the IG’s office was forced upon the [police] department, but it was implemented not by collaboration or by joint effort,” Birotte added. “It was sort of ‘this office was created and you’re going to have to deal with it.’”
His job includes navigating some of Los Angeles’ choppiest political waters, but while unwinding from a day on one of the city’s most closely watched jobs, the former Tufts University disc jockey enjoys relaxing to music—by candlelight.
“I love candles. I don’t think it’s weird,” he said. “I always tell people I light up candles when I get home because I like the smell. It just kind of brings the day down. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I love all kinds of music. It ranges from classical, hip-hop to R&B—you name it. If you get me in a record store, it’ll take a good while to get me out. Music is definitely my relaxation.”

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