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Who will be L.A.'s next police chief? 31 people have applied for the job

Who will be L.A.'s next police chief? 31 people have applied for the job
Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, looks at LAPD Chief Charlie Beck after Beck's surprise retirement announcement in January. Beck, who became L.A.'s police chief in 2009, will retire in June. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

More than 30 people have applied to become Los Angeles' next police chief, cementing the pool of candidates competing for one of the highest-profile jobs in law enforcement.

As of Friday's deadline — the end of a three-week application window — the city had received 31 applications for the position, said Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Commission.

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Few of the candidates' names have emerged, and the full list won't be released by the city's Personnel Department. But there is at least one surprising omission: Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, considered a top contender, said Monday she did not apply.

Soboroff declined to discuss the applicants in detail — he wanted to protect the integrity of the search, he said. But he indicated his satisfaction with the group, saying it included "highly, highly qualified candidates."

"We are going to have a great next chief of police," he said.

The search for Chief Charlie Beck's replacement began in January, when he announced that he would retire from the Los Angeles Police Department this summer. Beck and others have expressed their desire to forgo the need for an interim chief, giving city officials roughly five months to hire his successor.

Finding the city's next police chief will be one of the most closely watched decisions made by Mayor Eric Garcetti, who will make the final selection from a list of applicants narrowed down by his appointees on the Police Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the department. The City Council must then confirm the mayor's choice.

Police commissioners recently embarked on a citywide listening tour, soliciting input at community meetings, City Hall and in smaller, more private settings. During the public forums, many residents and elected officials emphasized the importance of hiring someone who is familiar with L.A.'s diverse neighborhoods and can relate to the people who live there. It was also important, some said, for the next chief to understand the history of the city's still-evolving relationship with the police.

The next head of the LAPD will have to confront some of the most intractable problems facing the city and policing overall, including ongoing concerns over how officers use force, a sharp rise in homelessness, allegations of racial profiling, a stubborn uptick in crime and friction with a White House angry at the city's "sanctuary" policies that limit cooperation with immigration agents.

Police commissioners have said they hope to finish evaluating the candidates and offer Garcetti their top three suggestions in early June, a few weeks before Beck's last day, June 27.

The oversight panel recently brought in a national policing nonprofit, the Police Executive Research Forum, to assist with the process. The Washington group helped alert potential candidates to the opening and would be another sounding board as commissioners draft interview questions for applicants, Soboroff said.

"We want to make sure we're not missing anything," he said.

Soboroff said he and Matt Johnson, the commission's vice president, will now review the applications and put together a list of candidates to be interviewed by all five commissioners.

Speculation over who would succeed Beck intensified almost immediately after he announced his retirement. Some have urged city leaders to hire a female chief. Others have called for a Latino. Both would be firsts for the LAPD.

From the start, Beck suggested that his successor should be an insider — or someone who recently left the department. That possibility appears to have gained momentum, as some police commissioners have signaled a similar desire.

The names of a few current and former high-ranking LAPD officials have circulated as potential contenders. The list includes Michel Moore, an assistant chief who was one of three finalists for the job in 2009; Sandy Jo MacArthur, a former LAPD assistant chief who retired in 2015 but is still a reserve officer; and Robert Arcos, a deputy chief who heads the LAPD's Central Bureau.

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Moore, MacArthur and Arcos all confirmed Monday that they submitted applications, as did Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides, who oversees the department's South Bureau.

Girmala, who many considered a front-runner for the job, declined to specify why she did not apply. Girmala attended most of the six community forums the Police Commission held last month.

"It was a very difficult decision because of the amount of respect I have for the men and women of the LAPD, especially those working the streets and doing the heavy lifting out there," she said.

The full list of candidates may never be known. The city's Personnel Department does not publicly release the names of the candidates being considered. In 2009, then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa revealed the names of the top-three candidates from among two dozen applicants at a news conference.

Beck ultimately got the job.

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