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The qualities necessary to lead the LAPD

August 16, 2009|Marjorie Miller

Times editorial writer Marjorie Miller asked some of the LAPD's chief critics, supporters and stakeholders to weigh in on what qualities are needed in a new police chief. What follows are edited transcripts of those conversations.

Legal director, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California

Ithink three qualities are essential for a new chief.

Mark Rosenbaum

The first is a recognition that change is a fragile process. What happened under Chief [William] Bratton is historic. But the department changes when the culture changes, and it can fall backward if the new chief fails to preserve an ethos of respect not just of the law, but of justice.

Second is an appreciation of the history and diversity of Los Angeles. What works and doesn't work in other communities isn't necessarily the case for Los Angeles. The department will fall in line when it respects its chief, so it's critical that the chief respects the integrity, dignity and differences of the various racial and ethnic groups in the community. Those communities share the need for an effective and sensitive police force.

Third is a recognition of the relationship between crime and social injustice. We need a police chief who promotes policies that accept limitations on what police can do. Policing in skid row, for example, must work in concert with, not at cross purposes to, social and economic solutions to homelessness. Los Angeles needs a police chief who acknowledges that often the best way to stop crime is to prevent it in the first place with social programs that deal effectively with social problems.

I think the consent decree was terminated too soon for the stability of its reforms, and that instability was reinforced by the departure of Chief Bratton. We need a police chief who realizes that there is unfinished business and hard work that must be completed if the city is to have the police force it can trust to protect and serve all its residents.


Daryl F. Gates

LAPD chief from 1978 to 1992

The selection process has become so political. That troubles me. When I was selected, and when the chiefs before me were selected, we had to pass a very rigorous written examination, practically a bar exam. We then went through a series of rigorous oral examinations, and then the top three scorers were the only ones eligible to be selected by the police commissioners. Now they have changed that process, and of course [former Mayor Tom] Bradley selected Willie Williams, which was a horrible mistake. It was a political selection. Then Dick Riordan wanted the black vote, so he picked Bernard Parks. And then along came [James K.] Hahn, and he picked Bratton because the [L.A. Police] Protective League was very tired of Bernie Parks. It's totally political, and it's just a shame.

Quite frankly, I think that some of the top people within the LAPD are well qualified and can do the job. Unfortunately, I think they're going to have to do some politicking, and that is not the way to select a chief of police.

The next chief's got to be a guy who can provide leadership. That's absolutely essential. I'm not so sure any of the last three chiefs have had a lot of leadership skills, Bratton probably stronger than the others. But if you really talk to rank-and-file officers today, they're not happy with him. He's always been kind of an outsider, and the police officers feel that. Leadership requires that you will be fair in all situations, that you will not throw people under the bus, as has been done time and again with the last three chiefs. Police officers feel those things right to the core. They want to know this new chief will be fair and honest and straight-forward. They want to see strong discipline that is fair and competent. They want a chief who will lead and not follow the political winds.

Because it is political, I would never give my recommendation because there are a whole raft of political leaders who don't think much of my recommendation. I wouldn't hurt somebody that way. But sure, I have my druthers. I've looked at police administrators across this nation, and we've got more talent in the upper ranks than you can find in police chiefs anywhere in this country. I'd like to see the selection come from within. You will find that police officers are more inclined to follow somebody from inside.

-- James K. Hahn

Superior Court judge and the former mayor who selected Bratton

The next chief must provide leadership that will build on Chief Bratton's remarkable success in reducing crime, building community partnerships, restoring confidence in the department and improving the morale of the rank-and-file LAPD officers. Demonstrating that those tasks do not conflict with each other has been Chief Bratton's real contribution to the department and must be continued. Politics need to be set aside, and the decision needs to be made solely on who is best qualified to lead the LAPD forward.


Paul Weber

President, Los Angeles Police Protective League

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