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Williams: A New Kind of Police Chief

August 08, 1993

* U.S. News & World Report had this to say about Police Chief Willie L. Williams in "New Cops on the Block" in its Aug. 2 edition:

"All else aside, the crucial difference between Williams and his controversial predecessor, Daryl Gates, is his vision of a more open department and a willingness--indeed, an eagerness--to do things that haven't been done before. In this, Williams is emblematic of a new kind of American police chief: risk takers and boat rockers within a culture where daily exposure to life-or-death situations makes officers natural conservators of the status quo.

"Williams stresses core values--the importance of the family and compassion for the underdog--in his fight against crime. Indeed, his old-fashioned attitudes help explain how he can take on immense challenges. During a 30-year career, he has never fired his police weapon in anger. Describing the role of the modern chief, Williams sounds like a frontier peacekeeper. 'Even if you step on some toes,' he says, 'you have to go in and do what you feel is right.'

Now, however, Williams is seeing that doing what he feels is right has limits, as his vision of community-based policing collides with harsh barricades. Some old-guard officers view the program as little more than social work with a badge. And crime rates in Los Angeles remain high, having declined only 6% this year from 1992's record-high level. Finally, Los Angeles must cope with a $23-million budget deficit, which means any money for more street cops, a key element of community policing, will be hard-won.

"With his honeymoon over, Williams is coming under mounting criticism both inside and outside Parker Center. . . . Some senior commanders fault him for not learning the system before making changes. . . . Many street cops complain that Williams' practice of visiting neighborhood groups doesn't help his officers. . . . Groups that monitor allegations of police impropriety say that after a dip, the number of officer-involved shootings and beatings has returned to the level under Daryl Gates.

"Still, the chief has time and again shown his ability to adapt."

Outside Looking In is an occasional column reporting on how Central Los Angeles is portrayed by the news media outside the area.

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