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Police Panel Dismayed by Few Job Applicants

City Hall: Commissioners get only 13 submissions for executive director's post. They say the salary range is too low.

May 15, 1998|MATT LAIT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To the Los Angeles Police Commission's dismay, few candidates have applied to become the civilian panel's executive director, officials said Thursday.

While commissioners predicted that hundreds of candidates would apply, only 13 have, according to a source close to the search. That dearth of applicants may frustrate the commission's attempt to hire a strong administrator to guide the part-time, five-member board and monitor the LAPD.

"It's disappointing," said Commissioner T. Warren Jackson. "There were people we were hopeful would apply but didn't."

The biggest problem, commissioners said, was that the salary range of $90,000 to $113,000 was not high enough to entice many qualified candidates.

"We've been advised by the personnel department that candidates opted not to apply because of the salary," said Commissioner Dean Hansell.

The 1991 Christopher Commission report, which proposed police reforms after the beating of Rodney G. King, recommended that the Police Commission seek to strengthen its executive director post, boosting the salary level so the pay is equivalent to that of deputy police chief, which is $136,000 to $151,000.

As envisioned by the Christopher Commission, the executive director would be responsible for managing the board's agendas, identifying and overseeing LAPD policy matters, conducting "spot management audits" and acting as liaison to other city departments.

The commission has twice petitioned the city administrative office unsuccessfully to increase the salary, officials said.

On Thursday, commissioners sent a letter to City Council members urging them to step in and increase the salary so they could attract more candidates.

Councilwoman Laura Chick, chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, said she would be receptive to increasing the salary if there are good reasons for it.

"This a position that the council cares about," she said. "I'm surprised that we haven't heard from [the commissioners] about this sooner."

William Fujioka, the head of the city's personnel department, said the search could be reopened if the salary is increased. He characterized the response to the job opening, which was closed April 30, as "very poor" but declined to release an official tally of respondents.

Meanwhile, Fujioka said, the selection process will continue with interviews of the candidates who applied.

"I don't mean to trash or denigrate the people who said they'd do the job at the present salary," Jackson said.

Hansell agreed, saying that there already may be some "highly qualified" applicants. "We just assumed that we would have received a larger number of people interested in the job."

Fujioka and commissioners declined to identify any applicants. Sources, however, confirm that Cliff Weiss, the panel's current acting executive director, is seeking the job. Sources also say that Assistant Deputy Mayor Joe Gunn has applied.

Before joining the mayor's administration, Gunn was an officer with the LAPD, retiring at the rank of commander. Last year, Gunn helped Mayor Richard Riordan reach his decision to select Bernard C. Parks as chief.

If Gunn is chosen for the job, it would leave close Riordan loyalists at the top of both the LAPD and the civilian agency charged with overseeing it.

That prospect arouses anxiety among some observers.

"It would be nice to have somebody in that job who doesn't have the baggage, loyalties and ties to [the mayor]," said Donald W. Cook, co-chairman of Police Watch--a community watchdog organization.

Carol Watson, another member of the group, said that having Gunn in that position "seems a little incestuous."

On the other hand, Gunn's supporters say that his knowledge of the LAPD would help him evaluate the actions of Parks and other LAPD managers.

Gunn could not be reached for comment. Weiss declined to discuss his interest in the position.

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