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Crowded Field Runs for Top Job at LAPD

Chief: The city receives dozens of inquiries within days of posting the job, and could eventually get more than 100 applications.

July 07, 2002|TINA DAUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The official posting for the Los Angeles police chief position went out early last week, and within days the city received nearly 30 inquiries--including several from former department members who have launched political-style campaigns for the job.

City officials are expecting dozens of resumes from those seeking to serve as the LAPD's top cop before the filing period closes July 19. The Police Commission is expected to narrow the list to the top three candidates by the end of summer. Mayor James K. Hahn then will make his choice, subject to City Council confirmation.

Among those who are already actively seeking the position are: the Portland, Ore., police chief, Mark Kroeker, a former LAPD deputy chief who was a finalist for the job five years ago; Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez, also a former LAPD deputy chief; and LAPD Cmdr. George Gascon.

All three have for weeks been making the rounds of City Council offices and community meetings to lobby for the position. Lopez has even sanctioned a Web site to support his candidacy. Initially, he also sanctioned a "testimonial" dinner to raise money for his efforts. He later canceled the event, amid criticism that he didn't need to raise money to apply for the job.

When asked about the campaigns, Hahn remarked dryly: "There's only one vote." Council members, meanwhile, have found the early efforts somewhat amusing, but not surprising.

"One thing is clear: The chief of police position has been political for many years," said Councilman Eric Garcetti. "It shouldn't be a surprise that politics have entered into it. Because of what we demand of a police chief, the chief has to have good political skills. Management skills are not enough. It's not a bad test for them."

The city began looking for a new police chief in April after the Police Commission voted to deny then-Chief Bernard Parks' request for a second five-year term. Parks stepped down several weeks later and is now running for the 8th Council District seat.

The city recently hired Bob Murray and Associates to screen applicants and forward the names of qualified candidates to the Police Commission. On Monday, the group opened the application process.

City officials did not disclose the names of those who have applied so far for the job, which pays $168,000 to $253,000 a year.

Others who have publicly expressed interest include current LAPD Deputy Chiefs David Kalish and Margaret York and Cmdr. Jim McDonnell. Former Deputy Chief Martin Pomeroy is serving as the department's temporary chief, with the understanding that he will not seek the position permanently.

Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said the city is expecting more than 100 applications. "We are confident we will have more than enough interested candidates to make the best selection," he said.

The job announcement describes the ideal candidate as someone with "considerable experience working with diverse communities" and in "inspiring and motivating" officers.

The Police Commission recently held the last of seven public forums to gather community input on selection criteria.

"We heard it over and over.... They want somebody who is honest and somebody who really cares about community policing and the reduction of crime in the many neighborhoods of Los Angeles," said the commission resident, Rick Caruso. "They also want someone who can improve morale, recruitment and retention."

Kroeker, Lopez and Gascon (no relation to Deputy Chief David Gascon) wasted no time in setting up public appearances as the application period started.

On Saturday, Gascon and Lopez appeared at a breakfast meeting of the National Alliance for Positive Action, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Inglewood. Kroeker had addressed the group a week earlier.

"Of course, the police chief is not elected," said Laura Santos, the group's speaker coordinator. "But community members in a democracy are entitled to hear from different public officials, and particularly those seeking to be police chief. So we decided to invite them."

George Gascon--who told the group that he is intent on reforming the Los Angeles Police Department and boosting morale--said he welcomed the chance to get his message out.

"The selection is not a political campaign, but it is critically important that the public become a participant in the process," he said. "It's important for the public to see the candidates and see what they believe."

Lopez, who also billed himself as a community-minded fixer who can tackle the department's tough problems, agreed.

"I'm not looking for an endorsement," he said. "I want to be able to have a dialogue with people on the issues they see as important."

Kroeker said he has been meeting with city leaders and community groups, not only to raise his profile but also to "learn what is important to the community."

"I'm listening, I'm studying, and I'm trying to make sure I retain an understanding about the heart of the city and its issues, because I've been out of town for the past four years," he said.

Kroeker called the search for a new chief "a professional process."

"In this process, there are stakeholders, including elected people, appointed people and, most importantly, the mayor," he said. "Ultimately it's the mayor who needs to have a comfort level. I haven't spoken to him directly, but the time will come when I will."

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