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Garcetti and new LAPD chief pick make first community appearance in Echo Park

Garcetti and new LAPD chief pick make first community appearance in Echo Park
Mayor Garcetti and his choice for police chief, LAPD veteran Michel Moore, stop to greet Tiffany Villa, 3, at El Centro del Pueblo in Echo Park. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

After decades in the Los Angeles Police Department’s top echelons, Michel Moore knows the agency better than almost anyone.

Still, on Tuesday, a day after Mayor Eric Garcetti tapped him to be the next police chief, Moore said he will listen to rank-and-file officers, command staff, community leaders and other Angelenos before fleshing out a game plan that reflects their ideas for policing a city with such disparate landscapes, lifestyles and languages.

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Moore’s listening tour began Monday evening, soon after a press conference announcing his appointment, with calls to police union leaders, power brokers in South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley and others he hopes to enlist as allies as he works to reduce police shootings and combat the city’s homelessness crisis.

“The engagement of police with our communities is a continued reform, instead of looking at enforcement, enforcement, enforcement,” Moore said in an interview with The Times Tuesday morning.

After a lunch at Eastside Market Italian Deli in Chinatown, Moore arrived in Echo Park with Garcetti on Tuesday, in his first major public appearance as police chief-select.

The choice of locale hearkened back to the men’s first meeting two decades ago, when Garcetti was a young councilman representing the area and Moore was a captain assigned to remake a Rampart Division tarnished by scandal.

In a city that is nearly 50% Latino, the locale was also rich with symbolism, as some Latino leaders professed their disappointment that Garcetti had not made history by appointing Los Angeles’ first Latino police chief.

At the El Centro del Pueblo community center, whose longtime head is Police Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa, Moore greeted students in a parenting skills class after Garcetti introduced him in Spanish.

When a woman spoke to Moore in Spanish, he begged off with a “No hablo Español,” prompting laughter and a joke that Garcetti should give the new chief language lessons.

LAPD veteran Michel Moore, center, jokes with the other LAPD officers before speaking at a press conference in Echo Park.
LAPD veteran Michel Moore, center, jokes with the other LAPD officers before speaking at a press conference in Echo Park. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Continuing his introduction in Spanish, Garcetti described Moore’s history in the area as the former leader of Rampart, noting that Moore had implemented immigrant-friendly policies such as allowing some unlicensed drivers to avoid having their vehicles impounded.

One of the three finalists for chief, Robert Arcos, is a third-generation Mexican American and LAPD veteran who also is not fluent in Spanish.

But Arcos’ supporters, who included City Councilman Gil Cedillo and former councilman Richard Alatorre, promoted him as the best face of the LAPD at a time when President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies have struck fear among Latino residents.

Another finalist, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, who is African American, served 27 years in the LAPD and developed deep ties in South L.A.

Moore’s father was Basque, and he is listed as Hispanic on department rosters. He says he identifies as the son of an immigrant and “one of billions” of human beings on the planet.

At Echo Park Lake, Moore pulled Arcos aside for a private conversation before telling other police officers that he wants to highlight the positive interactions they have with residents.

With the lake’s landmark fountain behind him, Garcetti reiterated that he had been aiming to select the best police chief for Los Angeles, rather than achieving a historic milestone. That chief, no matter his or her ethnicity, would be an advocate for immigrants, Garcetti said.

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“I would never have appointed a chief that I didn’t feel would be an absolute champion, in these dark days, for immigrants, and someone who could represent African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, the native community and, of course, whites and blacks,” said Garcetti, who is considering a run for president.

Moore said he became familiar with the area around the lake in 1988, as a homicide detective investigating the murder of a gang member.

The young man died in North Hollywood but lived across the street from the lake. In those days, Moore said, a youth who got in trouble with the law was considered a problem, not as someone who had likely experienced adversity and could be educated and reformed.

“Our way of fixing that was to enforce it, to arrest him, to arrest anyone else who was involved in it,” Moore said. “We didn’t do anything to stop the means by which people became involved in a gang lifestyle.”

Mayor Garcetti and LAPD chief-select Michel Moore greet people at El Centro del Pueblo in Echo Park,
Mayor Garcetti and LAPD chief-select Michel Moore greet people at El Centro del Pueblo in Echo Park, (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Similarly, Moore said, the LAPD should treat homeless people with compassion, helping them to find a way out of their situations instead of arresting them for minor transgressions.

Later in the day, Moore planned to address police officers at a roll call in Newton Division in the Central-Alameda area before they headed out to patrol the streets. He started his LAPD career at Newton after graduating from the police academy in 1981.

Moore’s appointment must be confirmed by the City Council. In a statement on Monday, Cedillo indicated that he would engage in a “rigorous vetting process” before the council’s vote.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, a former LAPD officer, said in a phone interview that all three finalists would have been stellar chiefs. With Moore’s experience heading all branches of the department, obtaining the fourth star worn by the LAPD chief would be a natural next step, Buscaino said.

Buscaino echoed what many LAPD insiders have said: Moore is a leader who is well-versed in every detail of the department’s operations and expects the same from his subordinates.

“If you work with Michel Moore, you had better bring your ‘A’ game,” Buscaino said.

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