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LOS ANGELES

Chief Quits as Son Joins Long Beach Police Force

September 19, 2002|NANCY WRIDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wanting to avoid any cloud of nepotism, Long Beach Police Chief Jerome E. Lance resigned as head of the 900-officer department to make way for his son to be hired, it was announced Wednesday.

While it appeared abrupt--Lance submitted his letter of resignation late Tuesday and was gone Wednesday--the decision had been months in the making, said his boss, Long Beach City Manager Henry Taboada.

"I think he agonized over the decision; he didn't want to leave," said Taboada, who appointed Lance a few months after his own appointment in early 1999. "But it was a matter of the best interest of the family. I support his decision, even though it saddens me. Because he was a good police chief."

Lance will remain on paid vacation and holiday time through Dec. 28. One of his three deputy chiefs, Stephen Bonswor, who has overseen the investigations bureau, was named acting chief. Bonswor is not a candidate for the permanent position, Taboada said.

The search for a new chief may be slowed because the city manager hires for it.

Earlier this month the Long Beach City Council fired Taboada, effective Oct. 4. Replacing Taboada could take six months, the council has said.

Some months back, Darren Lance applied to the department to become an officer, and members of the community voiced concern at public meetings about possible violation of Taboada's no-nepotism policy, Taboada said.

He said the policy could have been appealed, but he and the chief agreed that doing so would unfairly stigmatize the younger Lance throughout his law-enforcement career.

Once the hiring of the younger Lance seemed imminent--he was accepted into the city police academy--the chief wished to exit swiftly to avoid being a "lame duck chief," said Stephen James, president of the department's police union.

Because hiring an officer is such a lengthy process, involving written, physical and psychological exams and background investigations, Lance wanted to ensure that his son had been hired before stepping down.

Lance ended 38 years with the department, having worked his way up from a patrol officer.

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