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Blue blood

For past L.A. police chiefs, the top was just a place to fall from, says Joe Domanick, author of "To Protect and to Serve."

June 03, 2007|JOE DOMANICK

William H. Parker

(1950-66)

The most important figure in LAPD history, Parker transformed one of the most corrupt police departments in the nation into a smoothly run paramilitary machine whose mission was to control the streets, no questions asked. But his strong-arm attitudes toward civil rights protests and antiwar demonstrations brought about his Waterloo: the 1965 Watts riot and racial rebellion. Parker neither understood why it occurred nor had a clue how to combat it. He died railing against the forces of change sweeping the U.S. in the 1960s.

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Tom Reddin

(1966-69)

A cosmopolitan veteran of the department, Reddin quickly tried to soften its militaristic, "us versus them" tone and attitude, but he was met with contempt by the hard-line macho men who dominated its culture and believed that they were at war with large segments of the city. He resigned to take a job as a TV commentator, leaving the department no better than when he started.

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Ed Davis

(1969-78)

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 10, 2007 Home Edition Opinion Part M Page 3 Editorial Pages Desk 1 inches; 57 words Type of Material: Correction
Police chiefs: A June 3 graphic in the Opinion section about former Los Angeles Police Department chiefs contained errors. Tom Reddin was chief from 1967-1969, not 1966-1969, and he left the department to become a TV anchorman, not a TV commentator. Daryl F. Gates retired in 1992, not 1993, and Willie L. Williams took over in 1992.

A smart, shrewd conservative, Davis railed against gays, feminists and liberals so incessantly that he earned the nickname "Crazy Ed." He began Neighborhood Watch, a form of community policing that did nothing to lessen tensions between the department and minority communities. Reddin best summed up his tenure as chief: "When Ed Davis fought with everybody, the cop on the street thought he could fight with anybody too." Davis left the department to pursue a successful career as state senator.

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Daryl F. Gates

(1978-93)

Bullheadedly stubborn, Gates regarded any civilian criticism or suggestion as an encroachment on his authority as chief. The animosity between the LAPD and the city's minority communities steadily intensified during his administration, climaxing in the 1992 riots sparked by the acquittals of four officers involved in the 1991 beating of motorist Rodney King. When the Christopher Commission issued its report on the LAPD, much of the blame for the department's aggressive policing practices was laid squarely at Gates' feet. Political pressure and a change in the City Charter that eliminated the chief's autonomy led to his resignation.

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Willie L. Williams

(1993-97)

The first African American and the first outsider since 1949 to be named chief, he quickly found himself in over his head. Lacking allies and allowing his enemies in the department to define him, he was unable to make meaningful change. He was disliked by Mayor Richard J. Riordan, who wanted a law-and-order chief, and he balked at the mayor's plan to go on a police-hiring binge. Williams never got along with the Riordan-appointed Police Commission, which refused to rehire him.

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Bernard C. Parks

(1997-2002)

Riordan's handpicked successor to Williams, the LAPD veteran wanted to impose tough discipline and accountability on the department. But his imperious attitude offended much of the rank and file, and his contempt for the media and some politicians cost him civilian allies. His old-line managerial style of shunning compromise hurt him as well. When the Rampart scandal came to light in 1999, and the city and department were forced into a humiliating federal consent decree, he reacted defensively and wasn't rehired.

-- JOE DOMANICK

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