Deputy Chief Mark A. Kroeker, the San Fernando Valley's top Los Angeles police official and one of six finalists for the chief's job, pledged Thursday to work with new boss Willie L. Williams despite his deep disappointment over not being chosen.
"Right now, the sentiment that I have is 100% support; there's no alternative," said Kroeker, 48, who for the past year has supervised about 1,500 officers assigned to the Valley.
"That's the only way we're going to get good things done," Kroeker continued. "He can't be fighting with his own staff. We've got to be in step with him."
Now that the fierce competition to succeed retiring Chief Daryl F. Gates is over, Kroeker said, he intends to spend more time in the field with rank-and-file officers to boost morale, increase productivity and serve as an ambassador for the new chief from Philadelphia.
"Every chance I get, I'm going to breathe positivity into the dialogue, because that's the driving element we need," Kroeker said of talks he plans to give his troops.
Kroeker, who was the first police commander to publicly announce his candidacy for Gates' job, was decidedly less upbeat Wednesday, as unofficial word of Williams' appointment leaked before he and the other candidates could be informed of the Police Commission's choice.
He received the word that he had lost in a telephone call from Commissioner Jesse Brewer, a retired assistant police chief who was among Kroeker's supervisors.
"I'm real disappointed," Kroeker said in an interview then, adding, "I was maybe deluding myself. There was a part of me always saying, 'Mark, you're a long shot.' But then I thought, long shot or not, we've got a track record to talk about here and that's got to mean something."
But on Thursday, a smiling Kroeker played host to Williams as the chief-designate came to the Valley to meet with Kroeker and the other four unsuccessful finalists.
After the 30-minute, closed-door meeting, described by Kroeker and others as a cordial, get-acquainted session, Kroeker ushered Williams through the Van Nuys Police Station, introducing him to patrol officers and detectives.
"Everybody," Kroeker announced as he brought Williams into the patrol dispatch center, "meet the new boss."
A 27-year department veteran who steadily rose through the ranks, Kroeker assumed command of the Valley Bureau in March, 1991, just days after the watershed police beating of black motorist Rodney G. King in Lake View Terrace.
Although his assignment to the Valley was planned before the beating, the public and political uproar that followed the dissemination of a videotape of the incident significantly reshaped what would have been a routine post for a career bureaucrat.
Kroeker rose to the occasion, quickly gaining a reputation among police and activists alike as a good listener and effective peacemaker. He made a number of changes designed to revive public confidence in the department and put a human face on the police.
He implemented a Valley-wide program of community-based policing--one of the key recommendations of the Christopher Commission--six months before the City Council adopted such a plan for the entire city. He also increased the number of minority officers and supervisors in the Foothill Division, the northeast Valley patrol area where King was beaten.
Criticized by some detractors as being politically naive and self-promoting for holding many news conferences, Kroeker nonetheless was the top choice for chief in a union survey of rank-and-file officers.