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Foes Attack Chief on Several Fronts : LAPD: While DARE backers claim he is withholding support for the anti-drug program and activists accuse 162 officers of racism, Williams locks horns with his own top staff.


In a stark demonstration of the pressures mounting on the Los Angeles Police Department, Police Chief Willie L. Williams on Tuesday shrugged off questions about relations with his command staff, publicly tangled with a retired deputy chief and a City Council critic, and was confronted with new allegations of racism against 162 of his officers.

For Williams, the chorus of complaints--and the varied sources from which they were lobbed Tuesday--reflect the growing public and political dissatisfaction with the department and its leadership.

Williams has pledged to fight problems such as racism within the Police Department even as he puts more officers on the streets. But the competing priorities are becoming increasingly difficult to meet, and the chief is struggling to satisfy those demands.

Despite those difficulties, there have been recent successes. On Tuesday, the department released its first strategic plan, titled "Commitment to Action." The plan lays out the department's strategic goals for improving service to the community and details specific objectives for the coming fiscal year--proposals such as cutting citizen complaints by 10% and fully staffing new patrol areas.

"These are not easy goals," Williams said as he formally presented the document to the Police Commission. "They are challenging. But I believe that the men and women of this department are up to it."

Police Commission President Deirdre Hill referred to the completion of the plan as a historic achievement, but its unveiling came as the department and the chief were facing fire from several quarters.

Internally, the latest flash point came Monday afternoon, when Williams summoned his top staff to a meeting at police headquarters and upbraided the group for failing to move more aggressively to change the LAPD. That meeting left many of Williams' subordinates fuming and complaining that the chief had tried to blame them for his own lack of leadership.

On Tuesday, Williams tried to quell public fallout from reports of the meeting by refusing to answer reporters' questions except to say that it was "a frank and honest discussion."

Beyond that, the chief's only comment was to lament that details of the session had been reported Tuesday by The Times and to dispute a portion of the newspaper's account in which sources reported that Williams had floated the idea of breaking up specialized units such as the Robbery-Homicide Division and the Anti-Terrorist Division. Williams said he advocated no such thing, but several sources who attended the session reiterated Tuesday that the chief had suggested that all specialized units be considered "optional" as the department reviews its staffing priorities.

According to those sources, Williams specifically mentioned the anti-terrorist unit and alluded to detectives working on the third floor of police headquarters--where Robbery- Homicide is based--suggesting that it might be possible to decentralize their operations. Their accounts do not square with Williams' denial, but whatever was said during the meeting, the chief crisply asserted his commitment to those units in a special bulletin.

In that Teletype, Williams stated: "Robbery-Homicide Division was never mentioned, by me or anyone present during this meeting. Robbery-Homicide Division remains an essential part of this outstanding organization, and there has been no consideration to dismantle Anti-Terrorist Division."

Williams did not address other aspects of the sources' accounts of the meeting, in which he reportedly told his top officers that he was angry about their slowness to embrace change and their inability to follow through on certain aspects of Police Department reform, among other things. According to officers who attended, Williams sternly told his assistant and deputy chiefs--all but two of whom were promoted by him to their current jobs--that they should either work harder to support him and the department or seek other careers.

As Williams sidestepped reporters' questions about the meeting, he still was reeling from an unusually sharp clash with representatives of DARE America, a drug-abuse-prevention program pioneered by the LAPD.

Glenn Levant, a former deputy chief who heads the drug-prevention program, appeared before the commission Tuesday to request funds to bring DARE back into middle and high schools. Budget cuts have limited it to elementary schools in recent years, but DARE officials and the Los Angeles Unified School District want to return the program to older students.

Commissioners supported the idea, but Williams balked, saying he could not spare the 51 officers needed to restore the program to full strength.

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