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From Both Sides Of The Fence

From Both Sides Of The FenceTufts graduate and veteran prosecutor Andre Birotte Jr. switches gears to take on a new role as the LA Police Department’s inspector general. Los Angeles.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.02.03] As a public defender, Andre Birotte Jr. defended accused criminals in LA's court system. Then, as a lawyer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, he prosecuted countless criminals for everything from bank robberies to fraud to narcotics trafficking. Now the Tufts graduate is taking on an entirely new role in the legal system - investigating police misconduct instead of the criminals they pursue as the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) new inspector general.

"Andre is a sharp investigator with a vast amount of experience," Los Angeles Police Commission President Rick J. Caruso told the Los Angeles Times. "His knowledge of the law and analytical skills are a perfect match for the job of inspector general."

As inspector general, Birotte - the first African American permanently named to the post - will be responsible for providing civilian oversight to the LAPD. The Tufts graduate will investigate the approximately 4,000 complaints of police misconduct that the commission receives each year and must review and report findings from all officer-related shootings.

To prepare for his new role, Birotte has been working 11-hour days with the LAPD since assuming the position of acting inspector general in 2001.

"The workload is pretty significant, pretty demanding," the 36-year-old New Jersey native told the Sacramento Observer. "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... Particularly for me having been on both sides of the fence, so to speak, advocating as a public defender and a prosecutor."

Though Birotte's former role with the U.S. Attorney's Office involved very different responsibilities than his new job, his vast experience with the country's legal system make him an ideal candidate for the LAPD post.

And his colleagues couldn't agree more, selecting him unanimously over the five other finalists vying for the position.

"Because Andre was consistently tough, fair, and independent when we served together as federal prosecutors, I am confident he will be a stand-out Inspector General," said Los Angeles Councilman Jack Weiss - who worked with Birotte as a federal prosecutor - in a statement from the city government. "I learned to respect him as an attorney of the highest intelligence who is aggressive, fair and independent... I am confident he will bring those qualities to his new position."

So is the city's police chief.

"The commission relies heavily on the inspector general as its eyes and ears," Caruso told the Observer. "Andre has proven that he can do this job effectively."

Birotte, who majored in psychology at Tufts, says he has great plans for improving the efficiency of his department at the LAPD.

"I want to continue the good work my predecessors have done, [but] take it to the next level," Birotte said. "Be less reactive and more proactive. If we get the proper resources and staffing here, we can take a step back from just being reactive and look at the broader issues that effect policing."

Many who have worked with the Police Commission have faith that the Tufts graduate will be able to fulfill this vision and bring the LAPD to new heights.

"He'll be an outstanding inspector general. He understands the importance of civilian oversight," Jeffrey Eglash - Birotte's predecessor - told the Times. "He has the advantage of being familiar with the issues and personalities. He has a real good breadth of knowledge as a former public defender, an effective federal prosecutor and an attorney in private practice."

Birotte's collection of talents gives him a unique edge.

"We have an inspector general who we believe is one of the best in the industry," Caruso told the Daily News of Los Angeles.

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