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Police Question Statewide Search for New Chief

January 05, 1986|MICHELE L. NORRIS | Times Staff Writer

INGLEWOOD — Claiming that the department has several qualified candidates to replace retiring Police Chief Joseph Rouzan, police officers and management are questioning why city officials plan a statewide search.

The decision to hold an open recruitment has drawn praise from some community leaders who favor having a minority member as the new chief, and skepticism from police management and rank-and-file groups that would prefer to see an insider move up.

"I think the department really needs to see a chief come from within," said Jim Boggs, president of the Inglewood Police Assn., which represents police officers but not management. He noted that the past two police chiefs in Inglewood were recruited from outside the city.

Rouzan, who is black, was recruited 4 1/2 years ago from Compton, where he had been police chief and briefly city manager. His predecessor, Jay Stroh, was hired away from the El Segundo Police Department. Stroh, who is white, was chief for 10 years.

Want to Get the Best

"I know (open recruitment) is not intended as an offense, and I am sure they want to bring in the best person for the job, but in this case the best person may already be on the force," Boggs said.

Though the rank-and-file union normally avoids endorsing administrative candidates, Boggs said Deputy Police Chief Robert Gavney is the association's odds-on favorite to replace Rouzan. Beginning Jan. 17, when Rouzan leaves to become a security consultant at Los Angeles International Airport, Gavney will be acting police chief until a permanent replacement is found.

A 25-year veteran of the Inglewood department, Gavney also has strong support within the Inglewood Police Management Assn. Even some others in the department who may apply for the job say they respect Gavney.

"I've considered putting in a bid for the chief's position but if I don't it would be because I think the acting police chief is an excellent candidate," said Capt. James Seymour. "He is very much in touch with the department's needs."

City Needs a Factor

But some community leaders, and even Gavney himself, said city officials will have to weigh the benefits of hiring an Inglewood veteran or a minority outsider who, they say, might be better attuned to the community's needs.

During the past 15 years, Inglewood has changed from a mostly white community to city with an 80% minority population. Officials expect more black, Latino and Asian families to move to the city. "Maybe it would be nice to have another black chief," Gavney said. "But it's not that easy to pull a black chief from among the staff because they are still moving through the ranks."

Of 185 sworn officers on the Inglewood police force, there are 29 blacks, 18 Latinos and 6 Asians, most of whom are relatively new to the department. The city's population is estimated at 98,900.

At past community meetings several citizens said they thought a minority chief might have a better understanding of the community, although many also said Gavney was a preferred white candidate because of his experience.

Outside Search Backed

"It all depends on the persons involved, but with the city's growing minority population, it really seems like the city should give equal consideration to minority candidates, which I guess means looking outside the city," said Darlene Hopper, a black resident who is active in city and school board affairs.

City Manager Paul Eckles, who is white, said the city's statewide search "is not based on finding a minority replacement."

"Of course, affirmative action is part of every recruitment we do, but we are mainly concerned with finding the most qualified person for the job," Eckles said. "It could turn out that that person is one of our own people, but we want them to compete with the most qualified people from outside."

Officials plan to advertise the job, which pays $90,000 a year, in statewide law enforcement and municipal publications this month, and expect to start receiving applications by February. They hope to choose a new chief by late spring.

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