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A Top LAPD Official Is Vying for Arizona Job

George Gascon, the highest-ranking Latino in the department, seeks to become Mesa's chief.

April 21, 2006|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

George Gascon, the assistant Los Angeles police chief who oversees daily operations and is a key advisor to Chief William J. Bratton, is among five candidates vying to become chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department.

Gascon, 52, the Los Angeles Police Department's highest-ranking Latino, was among the candidates for the Los Angeles chief's job four years ago when Bratton was selected. He is a semifinalist for the job in Mesa, which has a population of 451,000, city officials said.

"I love the department, and Chief Bratton is a fantastic mentor. But for me it is time to start looking to become a chief, and this is a great opportunity in a city similar in size to Long Beach," Gascon said. "There are some very well-qualified candidates in the field."

Other candidates include G.T. Fowler, Mesa's interim chief; former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer; Phoenix Assistant Chief John Buchanan; and Omaha Deputy Chief Eric Buske.

Bratton selected Gascon to take over daily operations in 2004 and has credited him as the architect of crime reduction in Los Angeles during the last two years. Violent crime dropped 14% in Gascon's first year and fell about 10% more last year. He has pushed a theory that resources need to be concentrated on the 10% of criminals who account for half or more of the crime.

"When you talk about Chief Gascon you talk about the personification of tremendous," said Councilman Jack Weiss, head of the City Council's Public Safety Committee.

With Bratton saying he would seek a second five-year term as chief in 2007 and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsing him, Gascon and other high-ranking LAPD officials have been forced to consider seeking the top job elsewhere.

Gascon is slated to be interviewed in Mesa later this month, and then two or three finalists will be selected.

A native of Cuba, he came to the United States when his parents fled Fidel Castro's regime 38 years ago. He received his high school equivalency diploma in the military, undergraduate history degree while working in sales and his law degree while policing Los Angeles streets.

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