Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, arguing that he needs more top executives to effectively run the Police Department, is proposing a broad reorganization of the department's administration unless city officials give him four additional deputy chiefs.
Gates has recommended that the department's four geographic bureaus--semi-autonomous offices that oversee 5,084 officers in South, Central and West Los Angeles as well as the San Fernando Valley--be consolidated into two operations beginning in May.
South Bureau's headquarters adjacent to USC would be closed, and its commander, Deputy Chief Jesse A. Brewer, would be transferred downtown to Central Bureau to run combined operations there. West Bureau headquarters at 1645 Corinth Ave. would be closed and its commander, Deputy Chief Ronald A. Frankle, would be shifted to Van Nuys, where he would handle both West Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley police operations.
Both the Central and San Fernando Valley bureaus traditionally have been supervised by deputy chiefs. However, because of retirements over the last nine months, each is being run by a commander, as are at least three other major divisions once the domain of deputy chiefs.
"I don't know if it's going to be disruptive," Gates said Monday when asked if his consolidation plan would affect the quality of police work in Los Angeles. "We're going to try very hard to keep it from being disruptive."
Gates and other police administrators noted that splitting the four geographic bureaus between two deputy chiefs would likely reduce the level of supervision that officers currently receive, increasing the potential for police corruption.
"This is a big city, a major city, and people have to ask themselves why has the LAPD been immune to (widespread corruption)," Gates said. "We think it's because of the checks and balances we've installed. Then along comes the budget cutters with no regard for all of that. It costs money, I admit, but I think it's been a wise, sound, cost-effective investment."
Members of the Los Angeles Police Commission are tentatively scheduled to discuss Gates' proposal today behind closed doors. Commission President Robert M. Talcott said that no action would be taken before public hearings are held and other alternatives to consolidation are considered.
Meanwhile, the matter already has stirred reaction among members of the Los Angeles City Council, which in 1981 directed that Gates trim five deputy chief slots through normal attrition to save money. The department at the time was perceived by city administrators as having too many officers above the rank of captain.
To head off Gates' consolidation proposal, Councilman Hal Bernson last week introduced a resolution that supports the chief's wish to have four deputy chief positions reinstated. Bernson's measure is expected to be discussed when the council's Police, Fire and Public Safety Committee meets April 30.
Positions, Not Dollars
"As long as the chief feels that this is what's needed to run his department, it's inappropriate not to give him the personnel to accomplish that," Bernson said. "What he's really asking for is the positions. He's not asking for additional dollars. Those will come out of his budget."
But Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky countered Bernson's assertion, pointing out that deputy chiefs are paid more than twice as much as average patrolmen.
"The question is, can the city and Police Department afford to spend as much money to get four executives as it could to get 10 police officers in patrol cars and on foot beats repressing crime?" Yaroslavsky said.
"As a councilman, I'm beat over the head every day over the lack of police, police response time, police visibility . . . and it's just hard to rationalize a continuation of what has been a very generous endowment at the executive level of the department when the public is demanding more uniformed personnel in the field."
Peaked With 13
At its peak in 1978, the 7,000-officer Police Department had 13 deputy chiefs, including three in a higher pay grade who then, as now, carry the rank of assistant chief. Gates in 1978 did away with one of the deputy chief positions--chief of staff. Three years later, after an audit by the city administrator's office, the City Council axed five slots, leaving four authorized deputy chief positions.
Because of recent retirements, only three of those positions are filled today. Tests to select a fourth deputy chief from among the department's 17 commanders are scheduled next month.
"When the (council) cut the (deputy chief) positions, it was a political judgment and they really didn't have a plan for the management of this department to go along with it," Deputy Chief Frankle said last week. "That was OK initially because we didn't have any retirements. Now, the odds have caught up with us and we're having our difficulties."
Gates said that if his request for four more deputy chiefs is authorized, he will keep open all four geographic bureaus, assigning one deputy chief to each. Other deputy chiefs would be assigned to the Police Department's Detective Headquarters Bureau, Staff Support Bureau, Special Investigations Bureau, and Personnel and Training Bureau.
"People think I'm trying to be vindictive (toward city administrators); I'm not," Gates said. "I'm looking at what I have left and trying to fit the organization around it. I don't know how else to do it."