William Bratton, Jim McDonnell

Then-LAPD Police Chief William Bratton, right, takes a tour down Hollywood Boulevard to check on security plans for the 75th Academy Awards. At left is then-Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell. (Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times / March 19, 2003)

Former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton on Thursday announced his endorsement of Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell to be the next L.A. County sheriff.

McDonnell's "uniquely varied skills, recognized and respected leadership, and decades of experience with both the LAPD and the Long Beach Police Department will lend themselves to facilitating meaningful change,” Bratton said in a statement released by McDonnell's campaign.

Bratton said his decision was based on his respect for and close working relationship with McDonnell, who once served as his second in command. During that time, McDonnell played an "integral role" in transforming the Los Angeles Police Department, the former chief said.

"His efforts and thoughtful leadership helped create a stronger department and safer city,” Bratton said in the statement.

McDonnell left the LAPD in March 2010 to become the 25th police chief in Long Beach.

Last month, McDonnell entered the race to become Los Angeles County sheriff with major endorsements, including the county’s current and former district attorneys and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

In an interview with The Times, McDonnell said that entering the race last year would have forced him to put his duties in Long Beach "in second place" for a prolonged period. But now, he said, he would only have to simultaneously campaign and serve as Long Beach police chief for a few months -- an endeavor that he said city leaders support.

Amid a string of scandals, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced last month that he would be transferring powers to an interim sheriff and not run for a fifth term. McDonnell said that if he were elected, he would address the problems under Baca's tenure, including jail abuse, poor hiring and a lack of accountability among supervisors.

"You have an organization of 18,000 people and the vast majority are working very hard and doing a good job, but we need to retool the culture," he said.

McDonnell was on a county commission that blasted Baca's leadership after the jail abuse scandal, depicting him as a disengaged and uninformed manager who failed to stop jailhouse abuse and who would have been fired in the private sector.

McDonnell has eyed higher office before. He was a finalist to replace Bratton, but lost out to Beck. Seven years earlier, as a candidate for LAPD chief in 2002, McDonnell presented a blueprint for community-based policing that was later adopted by Bratton and served as the foundation for overhauling the organization in the wake of the Rampart corruption scandal.

During his tenure with the LAPD, McDonnell was given the task of helping the department build bridges with the city's diverse communities and political leaders.

Other candidates seeking to replace Baca are Assistant. Sheriff Jim Hellmond, Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, retired Sheriff’s Lt. Patrick Gomez, retired Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bob Olmsted and LAPD Det. Lou Vince.  

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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