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Selection of Police Chief

March 08, 1992

The nearly insurmountable built-in bias the ancient Los Angeles City Charter provides against outside candidates for chief of police is a modern-day disgrace. It has now accomplished more than the exclusion of an apparently qualified outside Latino candidate from the list of finalists (Feb. 29). It may have hindered on a broader front the achievement of what the Los Angeles Police Department may need more than any reform measure recommended by the Christopher Commission: a fresh breath of air from the outside, free of the LAPD culture of bigotry and violence now confirmed in the commission report, and free of the high risk that a clone from the old regime will be unwilling or unable to see the road to reform.

Private sector corporations with good operating records often look to outside leadership for new ideas and perspective. A corporation with problems of the LAPD's magnitude would probably not even have an inside candidate for chief executive officer on its early-stage list of candidates. The LAPD leadership's powerful resistance to an outsider as a successor to Chief Daryl Gates is itself an indicator of the unhealthy state of the organization's command structure.

Several years ago, the Black Advisory Committee to the Los Angles Police Commission, over Chief Gates' strong objections, urged the Civil Service Commission to reduce the number of extra points the process handed inside applicants for chief of police. Incumbency points were reduced. However, they were reduced just enough to make it almost impossible, rather than impossible for an outsider to counter the Charter's strange and inflexible assumption that all inside candidates for chief are always better than all outside candidates.

REGINALD ALLEYNE, Professor of Law, UCLA

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