When commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department Willie L. Williams saw a video tape of the Rodney King beating, his first reaction was, “I’m glad that’s not my department.” One year later, he was named chief of the LAPD and found himself accountable not only for keeping the peace in the aftermath of the destructive L.A. riots that followed the not-guilty verdicts in the case of the officers involved in the King beating, but also for helping rebuild a city.
So began Williams’s tumultuous and ever challenging tenure at the LAPD. Since his appointment, the LAPD has overseen the investigations of Michael Jackson on charges of sexual molestation; Heidi Fleiss on prostitution; and, of course, O. J. Simpson on double murder. Despite high-profile problems, there have been successes — crime has dropped every year since Williams took office, including a record 13 percent in 1994. Williams attributes part of the drop to community policing and to significant changes in procedure and the institutional culture of the department.
Taking Back Our Streets is a chronicle of how Williams, through commitment and a willingness to learn, climbed the ranks to be named the first black police chief in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He reflects on that career, and speaks candidly about some of his most public and high-profile cases – including those of Heidi Fleiss and O. J. Simpson. Williams describes in detail community policing, how it has been effective, who participates, how it works, and where improvements can still be made. In the final chapter, he gives practical advice on what each citizen can do to work with the police in taking back our streets.
In this book, readers will learn of the man behind the badge, a man whose character prepared him for a commitment to public service and a dedication to protecting the people of his community.