LONG BEACH — James Hankla's first major task as city manager will be to pick a police chief. But it seems unlikely that he will choose the candidate favored by his new bosses.
A majority of the City Council's nine members say they were disappointed when two popular Long Beach officers, Capt. Douglas Drummond and Deputy Chief William Stovall, were eliminated from the candidate list in january when it was cut from five to three.
Four councilmen are outspoken in their support of Drummond, president of the local police officers union, and two say Stovall, a 29-year-veteran, would be an equally good choice.
Both officers were finalists in 1979, when Charles B. Ussery, who retired in November, was selected chief.
Hankla, who said he has consulted with outgoing City Manager John E. Dever throughout the two-month winnowing process, was careful during a recent interview not to encourage speculation that Drummond or Stovall might be considered along with the three finalists--Deputy Chief Charles Clark, Cmdr. Jerome Lance and Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Lawrence Binkley.
"This process is the most rigorous I have ever seen for selection of a department head," said Hankla, who will remain as Los Angeles County's chief administrative officer through February but will begin part-time work at Long Beach City Hall within two weeks.
"I'll be providing the council with an opportunity to review my selection and explaining in great detail the reasons for that selection. And I hope that will create a comfort level that we can move forward with," he said.
Hankla, however, was himself named the county's top manager in 1985 only after Supervisor Mike Antonovich ended a lengthy selection process by adding Hankla's name to the list of finalists. But Hankla said that dark-horse ascension has nothing to do with the soundness of the current selection process.
He would not comment directly on whether Drummond and Stovall might be placed back in the running.
But sources within the Police Department said last week that a Hankla-led panel, which included Sheriff Sherman Block and a Superior Court presiding judge, interviewed only the three finalists on Jan. 23. Since then the field has been cut to two, according to a department source who said he did not know who had been eliminated.
Crime Top Priority
Council members, nearly all of whom ranked reduction of crime as their top priority for 1987, say they expect Hankla to pick a chief this month for the 1,064-employee department with a $77.7-million annual budget.
All say they will not try to impose their will on the new manager. Nor do they see this decision as an important test of his ability to deal with the council, they say.
"Some people apparently don't read the City Charter," Mayor Ernie Kell said. The charter gives to the manager, not the council, the choice of department heads.
Still, some council members said they expect Hankla to listen carefully to them before picking a chief. And Councilwoman Jan Hall said she has "absolutely no doubt" that Hankla will take their comments to heart.
All Five Are Good
If so, he will have to balance Drummond's political support, and to a lesser degree Stovall's, against the performance of the other finalists in many hours of tests and interviews. All five have very good professional credentials, Hankla said.
Councilmen Edd Tuttle, Ray Grabinski, Evan Anderson Braude and Wallace Edgerton said they support Drummond. Grabinski and Edgerton also said they thought Stovall would be a good chief.
Some council members said the outgoing and popular Drummond should be strongly considered because of a morale problem that has existed for years in the 650-officer department.
"There is a significant morale problem. Talk to any officer on the street and you'll get that kind of feedback," Tuttle said.
Long Beach firefighters traditionally have been an active and effective lobby during chief selection in that department "and I think we need to get away from this adversarial relationship in the Police Department," Tuttle said.
Councilman Edgerton said he will continue to push for "my candidates"--Drummond and Stovall. "They are experienced and well-thought-of and strong men," he said. "But the final decision has got to be Jim Hankla's . . . There's a line you cannot cross."
Councilman Clarence Smith, an old colleague of Hankla's when they both worked in the city Recreation Department, said he is sure the new manager will make a good choice.
But, he added, "I was kind of disappointed with the last cut . . . I'm hopeful he will interview all five to take away the perception that the chief is being selected by the outgoing city manager . . . Let's face it, Drummond and Stovall have been involved in this community a long time. So it's natural to prefer those two."
Strong Leader Sought