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THE LAPD: TURMOIL AT THE TOP : Officers Laud Gates but Say He Should Go : Reaction: The rank and file admire him for standing up to City Hall. They suggest that he is the first victim of the political interference he warned about in urging defeat of Charter Amendment F.

June 09, 1992|LESLIE BERGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Let the polls and politicians say what they will, Chief Daryl F. Gates is still a hero on West 108th Street.

"I love him. I love the man. . . . He's a police officer from the soles of his shoes to the top of his hat," Officer Ron Moore said Monday at the Southeast Division station, after Gates announced he is indeed retiring, despite threats to stay on.

Moore and other officers interviewed after Gates' news conference agreed with their outgoing chief that the Los Angeles Police Department is falling victim to politics. And they admired him for standing up to the city's political Establishment--for standing up for the LAPD--instead of buckling under pressure to resign.

"That's what ticked off the politicians--that they couldn't control this person," said Detective Tim Gipson, who works in the South Bureau CRASH, or gang-suppression, unit.

One detective said Los Angeles police have long feared political interference. He echoed Gates' warnings Monday that politicians are gaining the upper hand--particularly with the passage of Charter Amendment F, the police reform measure that gives the mayor authority to select the chief with City Council approval.

"The mayor has finally got what he wants--to pull the right string on any puppet he wants and make them dance the dance he wants, including our new chief," said the 44-year-old detective, who would not give his name. He added: "I'm sorry to see Gates go."

"I just hate to see the chief go," said Moore, the patrol officer.

But another Southeast Division detective said Gates' departure was overdue.

"Chief Gates has been a lightning rod for a long time and he doesn't do us any good by staying," said the detective, who declined to give his name.

"I know whenever he opens up his mouth, even when he's right, he's wrong, and there's no way he can have a working relationship with anyone in the city," the detective said. "The poor officers out here on the streets, they just don't know which way to turn."

In the 77th Street Division--another patrol area where hostility toward police has run high-- Officer Victoria Kirkham said it was time for Gates and Mayor Tom Bradley to leave their posts.

"We need new blood in this city," Kirkham said. "We need a new chief in this city who's going to get along with the mayor and vice versa. . . . There's a lot of personality conflicts and egos getting in the way."

Yet, even as they reluctantly called on Gates to leave, Kirkham and the Southeast Division detective expressed loyalty to their chief, who told a news conference Monday: "My people are loyal to me and I am loyal to them . . . I'd probably risk being fired to be loyal to my people. I think that much of them; I think all of them would do that for me."

Kirkham, a 3 1/2-year veteran, said: "Gates has done a lot of good things for the department and I'll never forget the day he gave me my badge. . . . As much as I hate to see him go, I think it's time."

Some officers predicted that Chief-designate Willie L. Williams will encounter many of the same problems Gates has--such as political interference without financial support--and that the department will change little.

"How can there be much difference? He'll have no more personnel--less, with all the retirements," said 77th Street Division Officer Edgar Palmer.

Officer Rashad Sharif, also of the 77th Street Division, said the citizens he meets are eager for Williams' arrival--especially black residents who look forward to having a black police chief.

"The people in this community, they want Chief Gates to go and they let us know that . . . they just say: 'We want the brother in office.' "

Sharif, who is black, said he hopes Williams follows Gates' independence.

"I like Chief Gates, that he doesn't back down," Sharif said. "He shows some spirit and I think he wants what's best for officers. And I hope Chief Williams does the same thing. We need someone who will be there for the police officers and not be a patsy of the politicians."

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