City Manager-designate James C. Hankla named a Los Angeles Police Department commander to be the city's new police chief, but the appointment immediately drew grumbles from council members who said they would have preferred someone already on the local police force.
However, the council members said they will support the city manager-designate's choice of Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Lawrence L. Binkley, 46. Both Hankla and Binkley report for work March 1.
In selecting Binkley, Hankla bypassed four other candidates from within the department, some of whom had received public support from several City Council members.
The city charter, however, says that the choice of police chief is strictly the province of the city manager, which led three council members Wednesday to say that the charter may have to be amended to include the council in the selection process.
Council Left Voiceless
"Under the present system, the council doesn't have anything to say" about the selection of a police chief, said council member Wallace Edgerton, who said he would propose next week that the council ask a charter amendment committee to consider including the council in the selection of a police chief. If approved by the council, the measure would be on the ballot in the next general election, Edgerton said.
"A police chief and his department have the most dramatic impact on citizens' lives," said Edgerton.
Councilman Evan Anderson Braude said he would support looking at a charter change, while Mayor Ernie Kell said he would be inclined to support it as well.
"The telephone is ringing off the hook and people are quite concerned," Braude said. "Some of them are so red hot that the phone was burning in my assistant's ear."
Braude, though, said he would support Hankla's choice. "Everything indicates he (Binkley) is top flight,"' Braude said, adding, "I have met him and he appears very sincere."
"I would have been more comfortable with a local candidate, but if this gentleman is the city manager's pick, I assume he (Hankla) has good reasons for it and I'm not going to second-guess him," said Councilman Warren Harwood.
Result of Long Process
The choice of Binkley culminated "one of the most extensive, demanding and thorough selection processes ever undertaken by a public agency" to select a police chief, Hankla said in a prepared statement.
At the end of a four-month search, "Binkley was clearly judged as the top finalist emerging from a group of very qualified and highly rated candidates," Hankla said.
Binkley's annual salary will be $90,000, compared to $92,400 that Charles B. Ussery was earning when he retired from the post Nov. 3.
Binkley, a 24-year veteran of the Los Angeles department, said in an interview that his first priority will be to "get to know the men and women of the (Long Beach) Police Department." He said he does not expect to be regarded as an outsider by officers of the 640-member department.
"I'm very optimistic about the support from within the department and in the community," Binkley said. "I really don't think that's going to be a problem."
In 1984, as the commander of the West Los Angeles field task force, Binkley oversaw traffic control and security for the Olympics. A Denver native, he is currently the citywide traffic coordinator for the Los Angeles Police Department. He has a master's degree in public administration from USC. He currently lives in Tarzana.
Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates said in a statement that Binkley was one of the department's "most efficient executives," who will bring to Long Beach "a kind of leadership that will win the approval of both the citizens and the police officers of that city."
Binkley inherits a department that has been beset by a surge in crime and by persistent police union charges of low morale.
Offers No Ready Answers
Binkley said he had no ready answers on crime, but would ask department officials and officers for suggestions on how to solve a 12.8% increase in reported crimes in 1986. The jump was the first significant increase in reported crime in the past five years.
The incoming chief declined to comment on allegations of morale problems.
In an interview, Capt. Doug Drummond, one of the candidates for the department's top job and president of the Long Beach Police Officers Assn., said some officers were disappointed by the choice of Binkley.
"I'm sure that most of the fellows were very, very disappointed that an outsider was selected, but also it's done and we want to move on the future and I certainly wish him well," said Drummond.
The finalists with Binkley were Long Beach Deputy Chief Charles Clark and Long Beach Cmdr. Jerome Lance. In addition to Drummond, Long Beach Deputy Chief William Stovall had also been considered but cut from the finalists' list.