COMPTON — The city is losing four top-ranking police executives, including its chief,under an early retirement incentive program designed to help ease the city's budget problems.
Chief Ivory J. Webb, 51, who has headed the police force since 1986, will retire Feb. 28, and three of his four commanders say they will be gone by the end of April.
A nationwide search is being started to replace Webb, according to city personnel director Sally Taylor. However, the commanders will probably not be replaced because of a reorganization plan that eliminates top police jobs in order to cut a department budget that has reached about $15 million. The police budget in the 1985-86 fiscal year was about $11.5 million.
Taylor said as many as 20 city employees might decide to take early retirement, which would save the city about $450,000 through June 30, according to preliminary estimates.
Terry Ebert, the only police commander who is not retiring, said administrative police retirements could save the department about $800,000 a year, according to preliminary estimates.
The police reorganization plan, which still is being refined, is also designed to respond to complaints by some council members that the police force is top-heavy with administrators. At least two of the departing commanders would have been demoted--one possibly to sergeant--had they not retired, according to police officials.
The city last summer demoted four police lieutenants to sergeants and four sergeants to patrol officers to save money. At the same time, 85 workers in other departments were laid off to balance the city budget.
Webb avoided discussing any aspect of the retirements except in terms of what he accomplished as chief and the new opportunities that he is considering. "It is intended to be an amiable departure that I have been looking forward to," he said. "I'm very pleased with my career and the city's been very good to me."
Webb said he plans to explore other employment opportunities, including consulting work. He joined the department in 1963 as a patrolman. A graduate of Centennial High School, he holds a degree in criminology from Cal State Long Beach.
Other officers were bitter and more outspoken on the retirements.
"Ninety percent of the executive staff of this police department is going out the door by April," said one officer who asked not to be identified by name. "That leaves one commander and some lieutenants and sergeants," the officer said.
City Manager Howard Caldwell said the department and the citizens will not suffer because of the retirements. "There's a fiscal problem, there's no doubt but the police department has always been the council's No. 1 priority and it continues to be so."
Councilwoman Patricia Moore, who has complained that the department has too many administrators, said budget constraints demand that the department be streamlined. Police are needed on the street, she said. "What good does it do to have them sitting at a desk . . . who said we need all these commanders."
Moore pointed out that the city's budget problems are so severe that on Tuesday the council eliminated nine more positions. The seven-employee cable television and public information office was eliminated, along with the contract compliance officer's job and an analyst's position in the economic and grants management department. The cuts, which are expected to occur in about 30 days, will save about $700,000 a year. The three retiring commanders are Thomas Armstrong, 51, head of the bureau of investigative services; Dallas Elvis, 57, operational services, and Robert Ruiz, 50, bureau of field services. All began their careers as patrol officers in Compton.
Armstrong, who joined the department in 1963, will retire Feb. 24. Ruiz retires Feb. 2 after more than 30 years of service. Ruiz, who joined the force in 1967, plans to retire April 27.
Armstrong said he would seek employment in the private sector. "I don't want to be bothered with public service any more. It's just left a bad taste in my mouth."
The department has grown and become more progressive during his 27-year career, Armstrong said. But he expressed concern over budget cuts and the council criticism, combined with worsening conditions in inner-city areas.
Armstrong also said Mayor Walter R. Tucker's call last year to dismantle the force and contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department only rubbed salt in wounds already opened by council remarks about police failures to deal with the city's high crime rate. The mayor eventually dropped his suggestion after intense criticism from the police.
"I found that they gave us a way out and I just took it," Armstrong said of his retirement.
Elvis said, "I think they're having some serious money problems. That's no secret and I'd rather not watch things deteriorate."
The retirements, Ruiz said, will leave a void. "But there's people here who can pick up the gauntlet," he said. "The department will survive."
Taylor said about 20 city employees are expected to accept "the golden handshake," as employees call the early retirement plan. Taylor would not disclose the names of other employees who have expressed interest.
Under the terms of the plan, which was developed in cooperation with the state Public Employees Retirement System, the city will pay extra pension premiums that buy the retirees two extra years of service, Taylor said. The state also allowed the city to count unused sick days as salary, which raises a retiree's pension because the monthly pension is based partly on years of service and partly on salary.