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The Next LAPD Chief

April 18, 2002

Bernard C. Parks' reign at Parker Center effectively ended with the Los Angeles City Council's refusal to overturn the Police Commission decision not to appoint him to a second five-year term. Now the insular, paramilitary, reform-averse Los Angeles Police Department needs a leader who can transform it into a contemporary department open to strong civilian oversight and broad community policing.

It's hard to imagine a more important hire for the city. Los Angeles residents should make clear to the mayor and Police Commission that they expect a thorough, nationwide, gender- and colorblind search--including within the department.

When the well-screened candidates arrive for interviews, the Police Commission and then Mayor James K. Hahn must select the candidate who most effectively answers yes to the following questions:

* Are you a reformer? Will you fully support the inspector general and fight to quickly implement the federal consent decree? Can you embrace, without reserve, the changes suggested a full decade ago by the Christopher Commission that work to erase the excessive use of force, the racism, the sexism and other inequities that linger in the LAPD?

* Are you a strong disciplinarian? Will you make it a priority to root out corruption, publicly denounce those who tarnish the badge and punish rookies and brass with equal resolve? Are you willing to call a botched police shooting just that and make forceful changes in policy if needed?

* Are you a solid administrator? Will you fight, even in times of budget cuts, for the resources your officers need to "protect and serve"?

* Are you politically savvy? Do you grasp the importance of listening to the mayor, City Council, Police Commission and other civilian leaders who can make your job painful or easy depending on the level of mutual respect you cultivate?

* Do you have a visionary streak? Will you see the city's myriad problems not as insurmountable obstacles but as challenges and come up with unexpected solutions?

* Can you be unequivocally fair to every part of the city and every constituency, making sure that cops are assigned according to need rather than a political pal's finagling or pressure from vocal activists?

* Are you a diplomat? Can you stand your ground firmly against the police union without thoroughly alienating the rank and file?

* Are you an effective cheerleader? Can you get "L.A.'s finest" to believe in that motto again? Even as you aggressively support reforms, can you persuade young cops that you have faith in their talents and appreciate the ever more complex and difficult nature of their job? Do you have the enthusiasm to spur a successful recruitment drive that will fill the LAPD's perilously dwindling ranks?

* Can you, in other words, turn a crew of well-trained but often disillusioned and disunited men and women of diverse backgrounds into the crack, tough, well-mannered, honest and dedicated team that the sprawling, vibrant, dangerous and wonderful city of Los Angeles deserves in the 21st century?

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