Trying to bolster confidence in the turbulent process of choosing Police Chief Daryl F. Gates' successor, the Los Angeles Police Commission has moved to directly oversee a highly sensitive probe of alleged misconduct by three of the six finalists for the job.
Two police commissioners--former LAPD Assistant Chief Jesse A. Brewer and Ann Reiss Lane--have been assigned to "supervise personally the conduct and progress of the inquiry on a day-to-day basis," commission President Stanley K. Sheinbaum said Thursday. "More than ever, at this moment, we have to be meticulous."
The commission agreed to take a more active role in the inquiry after a series of discussions Wednesday, when some community activists and city officials expressed concern about Gates' involvement as head of the delicate investigations involving some of his potential replacements. Though Gates has agreed to step down as chief in the wake of the Rodney G. King beating controversy, he has relentlessly attacked the process of choosing his successor.
A spokesman for Gates said that the chief will have no comment on the inquiry until it is completed.
But Gates is cooperating with the unusual commission oversight arrangement, officials said, and has assigned a three-officer internal affairs team, approved by the commission, to delve into allegations made this week by a Latino community group.
"It is not being done through normal channels in the department," Sheinbaum said. "The investigating team will have to report to the chief, but with close contact with Commissioner Brewer and Commissioner Lane."
Xavier Hermosillo, chairman of NEWS for America, the Latino group whose allegations touched off the inquiry, expressed concern about Brewer's involvement in the investigation. "I think it raises some serious questions. . . . They have a situation where Mr. Brewer either supervised, was involved in the promotion of, or had personal relationships with some of the candidates in question.
"I'm talking about cop relationships. . . . Policemen stick together. Why not have two commissioners who were not police officers?"
Brewer could not be reached for comment.
The commission ordered the investigation after Hermosillo's group, a coalition of Latino business, community and public employee groups, appeared at Tuesday's public meeting and claimed that three of the finalists for Gates' job may have been involved in obstruction of justice or serious violations of department policies. The group has been pushing for a Latino chief and is upset that no Latino made the list of finalists.
Though names were not given, sources have said the references were to Assistant Chief David D. Dotson and Deputy Chiefs Bernard C. Parks and Matthew V. Hunt--all of whom have strongly denied the allegations.
Dotson has acknowledged that he has been under internal LAPD investigation since last July for an alleged improper romantic involvement with a female subordinate. According to the Latino group's allegations, another high-ranking officer--identified by sources as Parks--intervened to help secure the release of his daughter's boyfriend late last year, after the boyfriend was arrested on two counts of attempted murder. The group said a third police official--Hunt, according to sources--intervened to discourage detectives from freeing a rape suspect, who was proven to be a victim of mistaken identity.
The other finalists for Gates' job are Philadelphia Police Commissioner Willie L. Williams, who scored at the top of the list, and LAPD Deputy Chiefs Mark A. Kroeker and Glenn A. Levant.
Sheinbaum said the investigation, which officials hope to wrap up in a few weeks, does not necessarily put the three involved candidates at a disadvantage. "They are on the same playing field as everyone else," he said. "We are going to carefully scrutinize the allegations."
In a separate series of background investigations, he stressed, the commission will be investigating "everything that's ever come up on all of" the finalists. That will mean a review of other unspecified allegations that have come to the commission's attention.
The in-depth inquiries, which will involve the city Personnel Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the commissioners, will span past investigations and any current allegations. Officials also will seek any background information in the possession of the FBI.
Detailed background information and personnel records are more readily available for the five finalists from inside the Police Department. But the commission also is committed to exploring Williams' past and records thoroughly, Sheinbaum said. "We could not entrust the department to someone if we couldn't do that," he said. "The mayor of Philadelphia has promised full cooperation.
"There will be no stone unturned," Sheinbaum said. "Given the spotlight on this thing, we do not want to make an appointment and then three days later have someone come up to us with something else."