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A diverse trio of LAPD veterans makes the cut as finalists for chief

A diverse trio of LAPD veterans makes the cut as finalists for chief
The three finalists for Los Angeles police chief are from left, Robert Arcos, Michel Moore, and Bill Scott, sources said. (Los Angeles Times)

Three department veterans have been chosen as finalists to replace outgoing Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in one of the nation's most prominent law enforcement positions, according to three sources familiar with the selection process.

Each member of the racially diverse trio — Robert Arcos, Michel Moore and Bill Scott — has decades of experience with the L.A. Police Department, coming of age during the 1992 riots, helping to implement reforms dictated by a federal consent decree and being promoted to high positions by Beck.

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The winnowing to three finalists by the city's Police Commission follows a months-long, nationwide search that from the beginning seemed likely to come down to a department insider as the odds-on favorite. Notably absent in the final cut were female candidates.

Arcos, a third-generation Mexican American, is in charge of Central Bureau, which includes downtown and northeast Los Angeles. If selected by Mayor Eric Garcetti, he would be the first Latino police chief of a city that is nearly 50% Latino. Moore oversees the LAPD's patrol operations. Scott, who is African American, left the LAPD more than a year ago to become police chief in San Francisco.

Many LAPD and City Hall insiders had expected a woman to be in the top three and potentially go on to become the department's first female police chief.

Sandy Jo MacArthur, the LAPD's highest-ranking woman when she retired three years ago as an assistant chief, was among those interviewed for the job but did not make the final round, according to the three sources, who were not authorized to discuss the selection process publicly.

The highest-ranking woman in the department, Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, was considered an initial front-runner but did not apply for the job.

Arcos and Moore said they could not comment on the selection process. Scott did not respond to a request for comment.

Last week, the Police Commission interviewed Arcos, MacArthur, Moore, Scott and LAPD Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides out of a field of 31 applicants.

The civilian commission, which oversees the LAPD, forwarded its top three choices to Garcetti on Friday. Commission President Steve Soboroff has declined to name any of the finalists, saying that releasing the names is up to the mayor.

Bucking recent precedent, Garcetti said Monday that he will not release the names, "to protect the confidentiality of the candidates."

Arcos and Moore have confirmed to The Times that they applied for the job. For Scott, who went to San Francisco in January 2017 promising to turn around a troubled police department, the optics are more delicate.

After The Times reported that he was one of the five candidates interviewed by the commission, Scott told ABC7 News in San Francisco that he would "not confirm an unsubstantiated source."

"What I'd like to say is what I've been saying. I have to be focused on this job," he said in the interview. "We have a lot of work to do."

In selecting three finalists with deep roots in the department, the commission signaled a desire to build on the foundation Beck laid, with his emphasis on community policing and working with former gang members to tamp down violence.

The new chief will face a host of thorny challenges: continued public scrutiny on police shootings and demands for transparency, an escalating homelessness problem, immigrants who fear deportation under President Trump, deeply rooted mistrust of law enforcement among some black and Latino residents, and crime rates that have ticked up in recent years.

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Whichever one of the three is chosen by Garcetti will be the second consecutive homegrown chief, after Beck. William Bratton, Beck's predecessor, was brought in from the East Coast to change the culture of a department rife with corruption and where some officers were accused of disrespecting the residents they policed. The three finalists are among the LAPD leaders who embraced that cultural shift.

After Beck announced his retirement in January, the commission held public meetings, with many residents saying they wanted a police chief who understands the uniquely polyglot nature of their sprawling city. Those comments have been echoed by some City Council members, who will vote on Garcetti's choice.

Michael Downing, a 35-year LAPD veteran and former interim chief who is now a security executive, said all three men are "intelligent, thoughtful and reflective leaders."

"L.A. can't go wrong with any of three," said Downing, who retired as a deputy chief of the counterterrorism bureau.

Garcetti has said he will interview the three finalists one on one and then probably do a second round of interviews with some City Council members present. He expects to pick the new chief by the end of the month and possibly earlier, which would be weeks before Beck's June 27 departure.

The commission has ranked the finalists, but the mayor is not obliged to abide by the order. Moore was ranked first in 2009, but Beck got the job.

Garcetti, who is contemplating a run for U.S. president, has described his ideal police chief: someone who is respected by the rank and file but is not afraid to discipline officers when necessary, who embraces reforms, who works to improve relationships with residents and who finds ways to get things done with a limited budget.

He has said that he is not looking for a chief "from a particular demographic."

Arcos, 57, grew up in Texas and L.A. He has the backing of the Mexican American Bar Assn. of Los Angeles County, which also interviewed MacArthur and Moore before endorsing Arcos.

As the deputy chief over Central Bureau, Arcos has taken on two of the LAPD's most pressing issues: homelessness and fear of deportation among the city's immigrant residents.

Moore, 57, is first assistant chief over the office of operations, making him Arcos' direct supervisor. Moore is known as a detail-oriented manager with a mastery of crime statistics. Early in his career, he developed a version of the computerized crime-mapping systems that are heavily used today. In 2000, he was assigned to clean up the Rampart Division after a corruption scandal there resulted in the overturning of more than 100 criminal convictions.

His father was a Basque immigrant, and he is listed as Hispanic on department rosters, but his heritage has not played a significant role in defining him in the department.

Scott was the LAPD's highest-ranking African American officer when he left to lead the San Francisco Police Department, which was reeling from controversial police shootings and a scandal involving racist texts sent by police officers. He is working to implement reforms recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice in San Francisco and has pushed to arm all his officers with Tasers.

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In his 27 years at the LAPD, Scott helped oversee reforms required by the federal consent decree. He finished his career as deputy chief of South Bureau, which includes much of South Los Angeles.

Twitter: @LAcrimes​​​​​

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UPDATES:

8:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details and comments about the finalists.

This article was originally published at 2:55 p.m.

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