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PERSPECTIVE ON POLICE : 'It's Time for Gates to Step Down' : The chief has made himself and the LAPD one entity; now that he's floundering, the LAPD must be rescued.

May 12, 1991|STACEY C. KOON | Sgt. Stacey C. Koon was the supervising officer on the scene of the Rodney King incident. He has been indicted and suspended without pay. He said he wrote this commentary to protest Chief Daryl Gates' handling of the incident, in particular his firing of Officer Timothy Wind

When J. Edgar Hoover started the FBI, he established and demanded the highest standards of conduct for his employees and the organization. As a result, the FBI rose above the corruption of the day and established itself as the role model for law enforcement.

Many years later, Chief William Parker utilized the same model to bring the Los Angeles Police Department above the corruption of the day. As a result, the LAPD became the model for law enforcement worldwide.

When an individual becomes a Los Angeles police officer, he buys into a system rich in moral and ethical standards--a set of standards far above the norm. When the officer takes his oath of office, he pledges to commit himself to such ideals as professional conduct and a reverence for the law, and to uphold the sanctity of the public trust. These are the cornerstones of LAPD's foundation. To violate these ideals is to commit the most egregious of actions.

In management theory, the organization (LAPD) is held to be a unique and separate entity. Individuals, like the chief of police, are part of the organization. In the organization, no one individual is indispensable. If Chief Gates were to leave the scene today, contrary to his own belief, the LAPD would continue and survive.

Often in an organization one witnesses a very powerful individual, such as Gates or Hoover. Further, one witnesses the individual to have an inflated self-worth. The individual believes he is indispensable to the organization and the organization cannot continue to exist without his presence. As a result, a metamorphosis takes place between the individual and the organization. When this transformation takes place, as it has done in Chief Gates' instance, the individual becomes the organization and the organization becomes the individual.

If an organization were to be solely dependent upon one individual for its existence, then the organization is without a valid and legitimate foundation. If this is the case, the organization needs to fall by the way. However, what is more often the case, it is the individual (Gates), not the organization (LAPD), that is without foundation. Consequently, it is the individual (Gates), not the organization (LAPD), that needs to fall by the way.

Chief Gates has metamorphosed himself from an individual into the organization. In this situation, the individual and the organization become a distinct and inseparable entity. Any attack on the organization is internalized and becomes an attack on the individual. Any attack on the individual is internalized and becomes an attack on the organization.

To defend the Gates-LAPD entity from attack, Gates believes he is justified to use whatever means will accomplish his ends.

In this state of mind, Gates is similar to a dying man. He will grasp at any straw of hope in his quest for life. He believes he is justified to abuse reverence for the law, to abuse professional conduct, to abuse the public trust and to abuse his oath of office. He believes he is justified to drain the heart, soul and life-blood of the organization. In sum, he believes he is justified to abuse the foundations of the organization in order to save the organization.

Gates rationalizes this warped logic of means/ends because he believes he is on a crusade to fight for the organization's survival. However, in reality, Gates is not in a fight for the organization's survival, he is in a fight for his own survival.

This is not to say that individuals like Gates or Hoover have not been a worthwhile influence on law enforcement. Both men have a long list of accomplishments that they may be proud of, that have benefited law enforcement and served the public well.

What it is to say is that there comes a time when it is necessary for an individual to step down. The test for when this time has come is public exposure: If the situation were exposed to the public eye, would the public approve or disapprove?

It has become blatantly obvious to the public eye that the words and actions of Chief Gates are not in synch with the cornerstones upon which LAPD has built its reputation. Gates says he has upheld the foundations of the LAPD to guide it through the Rodney King crisis. However, his actions speak louder than his words. Gates' actions indicate that he has abused his oath of office and prostituted the foundations upon which LAPD has built its reputation. Therefore, it is time for Chief Gates to step down.

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