City leaders had hoped to convince U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess that the LAPD had changed and no longer needs court oversight. Now it will be much more difficult to make that case, especially if the judge has been reading newspapers or watching what has become a national story on TV. The decision by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to cut short his trip to Mexico to return to Los Angeles on Friday was not unexpected. But most observers had expected it to come sooner than it did. Villaraigosa, who left last Monday, was to be gone for 10 days on a Latin America trade and tourism trip. Late Thursday, however, aides said he decided to return after reviewing new videos of the incident in MacArthur Park. It was a sharp reversal from earlier in the week when the mayor rejected suggestions that he would return early. Ultimately, many political observers said Villaraigosa’s decision was a mistake. They recalled how former Mayor James Hahn was politically damaged when he was caught in Washington, D.C., after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and made no effort to return immediately to the city. As for Police Chief William Bratton, the confrontation could not have come at a worse time. Bratton, who is seeking a second five-year term as chief, experienced a near love-fest last Monday night when the Police Commission held a public hearing on his reappointment. With little criticism, it appeared Bratton was headed toward an easy reappointment. Now, however, the Police Commission is expected to be urged to hold a new round of hearings to more fully review whether Bratton has reformed the LAPD. To his credit, Bratton has done all the right things since the May Day protests. He has been out front in calling for an investigation and has conceded mistakes were made. He also is reaching out to media organizations to try to rebuild relations. “I consider myself media friendly,” Bratton said last week. “This shouldn’t have happened where our officers are attacking reporters and camera people. I consider a lot of you my friends.” On a lighter note, the Los Angeles Public Library has launched a six-month pilot project offering electronic cards that allow access to all of its data. City workers are participating in the program and head librarian Fontayne Holmes said she hopes to make the program available to the public within six months after any problems are worked out. “We have material that is available only in our libraries and is not available on the Internet,” Holmes said. “We think that this will prove popular, but we want to see how it works now.” Among the resources available are more than 100 databases with access to magazine, newspaper and encyclopedia articles as well as best-selling audio books, videos and classical music selections. [email protected] (213) 978-0390 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It’s the same anxiety experienced by anyone leaving town for a while: Did I turn off the lights and the coffeemaker? Do I have my passport and tickets? What time do I need to get to the airport? And if you’re L.A.’s mayor, you have to add another item to the checklist: Did I remind the LAPD not to beat up protesters and reporters while I’m away? The May Day melee at MacArthur Park came as the Los Angeles Police Department was on the path to regaining public confidence, shedding an image of being bully boys and showing it had been transformed. But in one sweeping moment, that all has been called into question. Leaders find themselves voicing new frustrations and raising new concerns over the department’s future: Can it ever be truly reformed, and will the latest mess keep it under the constraints of a federal consent decree even longer?