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New Chief Named This Week : Hawthorne Priority Is More Police

Times Staff Writer

Finding a way to add more officers to the Hawthorne Police Department is one of the most important issues Capt. Stephen R. Port says he will face when he becomes police chief this summer.

The City Council chose Port during a closed session Monday night, following the recommendation of City Manager R. Kenneth Jue. Port will succeed Chief Kenneth R. Stonebraker, who will retire July 17.

Following a tradition of giving city employees the first crack at job openings, Jue said he also interviewed two other Hawthorne police captains, David Barnes and Richard Prentice, before recommending Port for the $82,380-a-year post.

Port, 37, said in an interview that it is “absolutely too early” to discuss possible changes in the department, whose $5.4-million budget represents about one-fifth of the city’s $28-million operating budget.

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“This is a time just to enjoy the promotion,” Port said, adding that his early selection will give him several months to work alongside Stonebraker and learn about the job.

Last year, voters defeated a utility tax increase that would have raised $2 million a year to add 19 sworn officers to the existing 85. The Police Department has about 35 civilian employees. Stonebraker and members of the City Council campaigned for the measure, but it failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority.

Will Meet Leaders

Port said he will “meet with community leaders, the City Council and the city manager and find the best way” to raise money to hire more officers.

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Port is seen as one of “a new breed of police officers” because of his expertise in the use of computers in law enforcement, said city spokesman Tom Quintana.

Port holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in communications management from USC. He has also attended the FBI Academy and USC’s Delinquency Control Institute. A resident of Lakewood, he is married and has two children.

Stonebraker praised Port as an intelligent, fair-minded officer who will bring vitality to the department. “He’s still under 50--he’s got a lot of get-up-and-go, a lot of drive,” he said.

Stonebraker, 55, joined the department as a reserve officer in 1958 and became a sworn officer in 1961. He moved up through the ranks and was named acting chief in 1980 and chief in 1981.

After he retires, Stonebraker said, he will take a couple of months off and then pursue an interest in real estate investment.

In explaining his retirement, which he announced last July, Stonebraker said: “I’ve been at this police chief thing now for eight years, and it’s a rough job. . . . I guess you just get tired.”


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