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L.A. Councilman Gil Cedillo and four former city lawmakers back Robert Arcos for police chief

L.A. Councilman Gil Cedillo and four former city lawmakers back Robert Arcos for police chief
Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo, seen in March, is pushing for Mayor Eric Garcetti to select LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos as the city's next police chief. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A group of current and former members of the Los Angeles City Council — all of them Latino — has endorsed Deputy Chief Robert Arcos' bid to become police chief, calling him "the right leader at the right time" for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Councilman Gil Cedillo and four former lawmakers sent Mayor Eric Garcetti a letter Friday praising Arcos as accessible, reform-minded and "a passionate advocate for all the diverse communities that make up the city of Los Angeles."

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"At a moment when the Trump administration has declared war on our immigrant communities, Deputy Chief Arcos has the experience and expertise to be the leader that our community needs," the group wrote.

The letter was signed by former council members Richard Alatorre, Mike Hernandez, Ed Reyes and Gloria Molina, who also served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. It is one of several efforts underway to influence the mayor as he decides who will replace Chief Charlie Beck, who is stepping down after nine years.

Arcos, who heads the LAPD's Central Bureau, is competing against Assistant Chief Michel Moore, who oversees the department's patrol operations, and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, who spent 27 years at the LAPD. All three have advocates who have been speaking on their behalf.

If selected by Garcetti, Arcos would be the LAPD's first Latino police chief. Scott is African American; Moore, who was one of three finalists for police chief in 2009, is listed as Hispanic on department rosters because his father is Basque.

Cedillo, who represents neighborhoods stretching from Westlake to Lincoln Heights and Highland Park, said the selection of Arcos would build trust between the department and communities of color. His hiring would also send a message to the city's Mexican American residents, and immigrants in general, that "they are valued and that they are respected," the councilman said.

"Bobby's story is so much like every Mexican American's story in the city," he said. "For every kid that's grown up in an imperfect life, he represents the success of playing by the rules, working hard, doing the right thing."

Garcetti interviewed the three finalists Friday, an aide to the mayor said. The mayor had no comment on the lobbying effort in favor of Arcos.

Cedillo and the four former council members sent their letter a few days after Arcos picked up a similar endorsement from the Mexican American Bar Assn. of Los Angeles County.

Denisse O. Gastélum, the group's president, said her organization views Arcos as the strongest candidate to address such issues as homelessness, mental illness and the fear of law enforcement felt by some Angelenos in the wake of Trump's election.

Gastélum said her group interviewed three of the five finalists and found that Arcos was the most candid about the need to confront the large number of fatal officer-involved shootings at the LAPD.

Still, another Latino legal group has lined up behind a different finalist. The Mexican American Bar Assn. Political Action Committee, which is not affiliated with Gastélum's group, sent a letter to Garcetti last month saying Moore has the most experience for the job.

Raymond Eshaghian, who serves on the PAC board, said Moore has been a longtime champion of accountability at the LAPD and played a pivotal role in the department's effort to outfit officers with body cameras. "We feel that he is the most qualified to replace Chief Beck," he said.

Supporters of Scott also have been working to influence Garcetti's decision on the next chief. On Monday, a group of religious and community leaders held a news conference to urge Garcetti to select the San Francisco chief, saying he is the candidate with the deepest knowledge of South Los Angeles — a region of the city that has had a troubled history with the Police Department.

At the LAPD, Scott was deputy chief of the South Bureau and helped to oversee reforms required by the federal consent decree. Appearing at Holman United Methodist Church, members of the group said he has the "cultural competency" to run the agency.

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"He's a bridge builder in a variety of ways," said the Rev. Kelvin Sauls, senior pastor at Holman United Methodist Church. "He's one who understands community policing. He's one who understands the different segments of the city."

Times staff writer Cindy Chang contributed to this report.

Twitter: @DavidZahniser

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