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POLITICAL FORECAST : Who Should Be L.A.'s New Chief?

July 28, 1991| Political Forecast was compiled by Jeff Levin, who has worked in state and local government

Now that Daryl F. Gates has said he will retire as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, what kind of person should replace him? And who? The Times asked current and former police chiefs, as well as experts on policing .

Pat Murphy,former police commissioner of New York and now director of the Police Policy Board of U.S. Conference of Mayors:

The new chief should be an experienced police administrator, and a creative one. The LAPD has been a good department, but maybe it's an in-bred department by now. There's a lot of talent in the police world today--a lot of outstanding chiefs--and maybe it's time for some fresh blood in Los Angeles.

The LAPD may not be up to speed with some of the innovative things happening around the country, such as what Commissioner Lee Brown is doing in New York. The style of community policing that he's developing is needed in every city--especially in Los Angeles.

I've always been very high on Pat Fitzsimon of Seattle, who's brought that department a long way. I'm very high on Peter Ronstadt, in Tucson, and Ruben Greenberg, in Charleston, S.C.

Some people who've left the LAPD are now chiefs. They're had the opportunity to spread their wings. There might be successor possibilities there. The chief in Long Beach, Lawrence Brinkley--I'm very impressed by him.

Hubert Williams,former police chief of Newark and now head of the Police Foundation in Washington:

I would think L.A. would be looking for a police chief who can deal with the cultural diversity of the city, someone who can unite the police department so that it's focused on dealing both with crime and public perceptions of the police.

The city has to choose between a candidate who has the potential to be a good chief and a candidate who has a demonstrable track record. L.A. has got some really fine, capable assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs. They come with the asset of knowing the police department and the community. (But) the issue of culture, the perspectives developed about policing, may be somewhat of an inhibiting factor for police officers coming up under the Los Angeles model--if the objective is to change the model.

Robert Burgreen, police chief of San Diego:

In today's police work, the chief of police has to be in touch with the community. In a city the size of Los Angeles, that means a lot of community outreach. A chief who believes in and exercises community outreach on a personal level--that would be the No. 1 job requirement.

A chief who also maintains regular contact with the officers on the street, so that the chief knows what the officers are thinking and doing and the problems they are having--that is equally important.

William Rathburn,police chief of Dallas and formerly a deputy chief with the LAPD:

The (next chief) will need instant credibility with all segments of the community and the support of the people in the department. It'll take a chief with the courage to initiate dramatic changes in the LAPD, in its basic philosophy, in its procedures and in its key personnel. The new chief must be able to end the polarization within the community over police issues and to bring the LAPD and the community together in a partnership to solve problems.

Eduardo Gonzales, deputy director of the Metro Dade Police Department:

Someone with a track record in community-oriented policing is needed. You have to find police chiefs who are willing to implement this policing concept, which is to provide for as much input as you can from the people you're serving.

I've thought my boss, Fred Taylor, would be good as L.A.'s chief. The Miami Herald had two names listed: Peter Ronstadt, chief of Tucson, and Bill Bratton, chief of New York Transit Police.

One of the problems is that most people perceive the L.A. job as one where the guy who replaces Gates will be an agent of change. But such people generally last only two or three years.

James Lasley,associate professor of criminal justice, Cal State Fullerton:

His replacement should be someone from inside the department. There's no city like Los Angeles. It's pretty naive for people to think that a person can come in and, in five years, change things in the department.

I feel Assistant Chief Robert L. Vernon is the best candidate. He's always been community-minded, although all the religion stuff got in the way. He's the one who implemented team policing, which was the first and most progressive community-based policing program in the nation. He devised "Operation Cul-de-sac" which is probably the foremost inner-city policing strategy that's out right now, the most progressive.

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