In a move that will surely rile many of his African-American constituents, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn on Saturday came to the defense of embattled Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, calling him the “best chief in the nation.”
“I personally know Chief Gates to be a man of character and a man of service,” said Hahn, whose district includes much of South-Central Los Angeles. “He should not resign.”
Meanwhile, about 200 people called for Gates’ removal outside the downtown police headquarters Saturday, in what has become a regular gathering since Los Angeles police officers were captured on videotape beating Rodney G. King, a black Altadena man, on March 3.
Hahn said he was not looking to publicize his sentiments, but was questioned by a reporter from a local radio station while he attended an Easter egg hunt at a Willowbrook shopping center. The veteran supervisor was quoted as saying Gates should not be judged by his officers’ alleged brutality.
Reached later at his home, Hahn added: “I always speak what I think is best for the people, whether it’s popular or not popular.”
Hahn acknowledged that the chief is in trouble and should hire “a first-class public relations firm to build back the confidence of the public.” But he said that he believed the chief will weather the storm and the department will be better for it.
“He’s like the captain of a ship,” Hahn said. “He sees a storm and what he should do is batten down the hatches and tell the quartermaster, keep the ship on course. . . . There will be a better Police Department when it’s all through.”