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LAPD might need an interim chief

The mayor wants to select a permanent replacement for William J. Bratton by the time the chief leaves Oct. 31. But the Personnel Department's timeline for the process makes that seem unlikely.

August 27, 2009|Joel Rubin

The search for Los Angeles' next police chief is unlikely to be completed before the LAPD's outgoing leader, William J. Bratton, departs at the end of October, according to the schedule laid out by city officials overseeing the process.

The expected timeline means it is likely that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be forced to appoint an interim chief -- a move he has said he is loath to make -- or leave the department without a head for a few weeks.

That realization comes as the field of internal LAPD candidates planning to compete for the job widens significantly. At least 11 of the department's dozen deputy and assistant chiefs have decided to apply.

Bratton, 61, shocked the city earlier this month with word that he would step down Oct. 31 to join a private security firm. Villaraigosa, who must select a replacement from finalists who emerge after a lengthy application process, said he wanted to be able to name the new chief by the time Bratton left.

Application reviews, interviews, background checks and deliberations, however, are expected to take too long to meet that goal, said Phyllis Lynes, assistant general manager in the city Personnel Department. The names of three finalists are scheduled to be given to the mayor in the third week of November, she said.

Through a spokesman, Villaraigosa reiterated his wishes Wednesday, saying he still believed Oct. 31 was "a perfectly reasonable deadline." Lynes said that the Personnel Department, which runs the search, is aware of the mayor's hopes and that it is possible some time might be saved. The department's timeline, however, is already "a bit aggressive," she said.

Candidates for the job, whether they come from inside the department or elsewhere, are expected to have a three-week window to submit their applications beginning Sept. 1, Lynes said. The names of about 12 of the strongest applicants will probably be forwarded to the Police Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD, in early October. The commission will narrow the pool to the three finalists from which the mayor selects a chief.

From the outset, a few of the more senior members of Bratton's command staff -- Assistant Chiefs Jim McDonnell, 49; Sharon Papa, 51; and Earl Paysinger, 54; and Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, 56 -- surfaced as obvious candidates to replace him. All four confirmed in brief interviews Wednesday that they would pursue the post.

Six others in the group of 12 men and women who run the day-to-day operations of the LAPD said they too have decided to join those presumed front-runners. For some, the decision was spurred by Bratton, who, at a private meeting several days after his announcement, urged all of the deputy and assistant chiefs to apply for the job, several of the candidates said.

Bratton has made no secret of his desire that his replacement come from within the department. In interviews he has said he does not believe there is anyone outside the LAPD more qualified than those on the inside to run the roughly 10,000-officer force. Faced with potentially drastic cuts in coming months, Bratton added that the department cannot afford the several months he believes it would take an outsider to get up to speed on the inner workings of the LAPD.

The group of candidates now also includes Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz, who had initially said he was sticking to a long-held plan to retire from the LAPD after more than 32 years. The change of heart, said the 54-year-old Diaz, came after he decided not to pursue a job under George Gascon, a close friend and former LAPD deputy chief who recently took over the top post at the San Francisco Police Department.

"When this opportunity came up, I evaluated where I am in my career and what I think I still have to offer this city," he said.

Also applying are: Kirk Albanese, 52, head of the South Bureau; Terry Hara, 51, who oversees the West Bureau; Sandy Jo MacArthur, 52, in charge of training; Michel Moore, 49, head of operations in the San Fernando Valley Bureau; Mark Perez, 52, who oversees the department's Professional Standards Bureau; and Richard Rupoli, 60, commanding officer in the Special Operations Bureau. The remaining deputy chief, Michael Downing, who oversees counter-terrorism efforts, could not be reached for comment.

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joel.rubin@latimes.com

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