Sheriff Sherman Block announced Wednesday that he has promoted 29-year department veteran Raymon L. Morris to assistant sheriff, making Morris the highest-ranking African-American in the history of the agency.
Morris, 54, said he had been preparing to retire when Block informed him that he would be promoted from division chief to replace the retiring Assistant Sheriff Richard Foreman.
Morris will share the department's No. 3 slot with another assistant sheriff, Jerry Harper. They are outranked only by Block, who is an elected official, and the appointed undersheriff, Robert Edmonds.
Block, paying tribute to Morris for his "long, distinguished and varied" experience, said he will take over command of the department's custody, court services and technical services divisions.
In addition, he said, Morris will retain his previously assigned task of implementing any Christopher Commission recommendations that are deemed applicable to the Sheriff's Department. The Christopher Commission last year urged a series of reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The sheriff also said Morris is in charge of implementation of the department's "core values" campaign. The effort includes conspicuously posted slogans declaring that the department shall "be service-oriented and perform our duties with the highest possible degree of personal and professional integrity." Deputies are also asked to conform to such standards as "being fair and impartial and treating people with dignity."
Morris said that, as an African-American, he expects to bring a special sensitivity to his new job.
"To the extent that I'm involved in the decision-making process, I would expect that I would in fact bring that perspective. . . . Of course, any changes which are called for, we're going to want to make. On the other hand, I'll have to tell you that I've not had the opportunity to look very closely at (my) responsibilities to date."
Morris lives with his wife of 26 years, Wilma, and son, Daniel, in Pomona. He served initially in the sheriff's custody, patrol and court services divisions as a deputy and sergeant.
Later, as a lieutenant, captain and commander, he held positions in the patrol, administrative and detective divisions.
In 1990, he was promoted by Block to one of eight division chief positions, commanding field operations in the Lakewood, Norwalk, Industry, Pico-Rivera, San Dimas, Walnut and Avalon patrol stations as well as overseeing the Department's Aero Bureau and Special Enforcement Bureau.