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Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Connie Rice, Co-Director, The Advancement Project

Connie Rice
Connie Rice

In Episode #31, Connie Rice, Co-Director of the Advancement Project, discusses how she got involved in gang prevention work, her efforts to reform the Los Angeles Police Department through both lawsuits and collaboration, her partnership with former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, an innovative life skills program in LA’s jails, and more.

Connie Rice Interview Highlights

Rice on Moving From the Outside to the Inside to Reform LAPD:

"My theory of change here is that we have plenty of good lawyers suing and the lawsuits will always be necessary, even with great police forces, you have to have litigation as one of the checks.  We had enough really good police misconduct lawyers and they didn’t need me, what we needed were people on the inside of the department who could build enough trust with cops so that cops would speak honestly to them.  And cops who will trust you enough to tell you why they’re afraid to change.  Once you start talking at that level with police officers, then you can try the inside strategy, because you can work on changing the conditions that prevent the good cops from being able to police in the way that is healthier for the community and more positive. So, I moved to the inside, and people were saying on websites that Connie’s gone to the dark side and then later on they started blogging Connie’s a traitor and all this kind of stuff.  I don’t pay any attention to it. There’s too much work to do and some of us have to be on the inside."

Rice on Spending Time in LA’s “Kill Zones”:

"I was learning about the conditions in our “Kill Zones” or our gang zones, or the little tiny hot spots where crime really goes down and where it’s actually dangerous to deliver mail, it’s dangerous to walk to school. In these hot spots, nobody is safe, not the police, not the kids, and I had to learn this. I didn’t know this, sitting in my downtown office. I had to learn this by going into these neighborhoods and spending time there. And it was to sort of, I know the policy, I know the laws, I can deal with court, but that very rarely matches the reality on the ground.  I was trying to teach myself through these relationships I was developing with kids in gangs, men in gangs, some of the women in gangs, to learn that side of LA that most people think that law enforcement should be the only ones to deal with."

Rice on Former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton’s Success:

"Bratton came in as a very strong outside chief. The only kind of outsider who could have taken over LAPD, ever, had to be extraordinary in every way. And luckily Bratton was extraordinary.  He had enough ego, he enough of his own arrogance, and he had the right vision.  He wanted to establish policing, as he said, that was free of bias, corruption and brutality. He wanted all of that taken out of LAPD’s DNA. And he showed LAPD what working with civilian control looks like and what working with community leaders and the community and gang intervention looks like."



The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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