L.A. Mayor Asks Police Chief to Quit : Law enforcement: Daryl F. Gates promptly rejects the demand. Bradley cites damage to the department’s reputation and loss of public confidence.
Mayor Tom Bradley called on Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates to resign Tuesday “for the good of the LAPD and the welfare of all of Los Angeles,” a demand the chief promptly rejected.
The standoff marked a sharp escalation in the monthlong controversy over the police beating of Rodney G. King, transforming it into a battle of wills between two of the city’s most powerful public officials.
In a live televised address, Bradley said he met privately with Gates at City Hall earlier in the day and asked the chief to step down from the post he has held for 13 years. But Bradley said Gates told him: “Mayor, I think you’re wrong and I will not resign.”
Having failed in private to persuade the chief to resign, Bradley went before the public. “The Los Angeles Police Department is at a crossroads in its great history,” the mayor said. “When the public begins to lose confidence in the chief, and in the LAPD, the chief has only one choice. He must step aside.”
Gates, emerging from his Parker Center office after the mayor’s address, appeared calm and unshaken and vowed not to resign.
“There are 8,300 members of this department who are depending on me to stay and to provide some leadership out of this situation,” Gates said. “I believe I can provide that leadership and I will do that.”
He added: “I don’t believe that 8,300 police officers will follow the mayor anywhere.”
King was beaten March 3 by LAPD officers who struck him more than 50 times with their batons after a car chase in the San Fernando Valley.
The beating, videotaped by a amateur cameraman, has prompted a national outcry against police brutality and many calls for Gates’ resignation. Gates has publicly condemned the actions of the officers but claimed it was an “aberration” and not part of a pattern of police abuse of citizens.
Bradley’s call for Gates’ departure drew a wide range of predictions about how the struggle between the two leaders will be resolved.
‘If the chief resigns, it will create a firestorm,” said Councilwoman Joy Picus, a Gates supporter. “It would polarize the city, not heal the city. I believe the only person who can make the changes required within the department is the chief of police himself.”
Police Commissioner Melanie Lomax, who often has been critical of the chief, predicted otherwise.
“Mayor Bradley’s statements will be given great weight,” Lomax said. “I think it’s going to be one of those pivotal events in this crisis that, in all likelihood, will increase the pressure that has been brought to bear on the chief of police.”
Bradley’s call for Gates to quit drew a mixed response from Santa Ana Mayor Daniel H. Young, who said that for Gates to resign would be a “courageous” act that would help heal the wounds of the King incident. But, Young said, he has seen no evidence that Gates is culpable personally for the alleged brutality.
“The mayor makes a good point when he says that the healing process cannot begin until a new face takes charge,” Young said, adding: “I think it’s unfair to place the ultimate responsibility for what happened with the chief.”
In his speech, Bradley said the King case, and Gates’ refusal to leave office, have damaged the department’s reputation and ruined public confidence in the Police Department.
“I simply will not stand by as our city is split apart,” Bradley said. “We must come together. We must heal.”
Directing many of his remarks to the chief personally, the mayor said: “Chief Gates, now is the time for you to do the right thing--for your officers, for your department, for the public you serve.”
Bradley also addressed the officers under Gates’ command. “As an LAPD veteran, I empathize with the thousands of honorable officers who have watched helplessly as the department’s prestige has been seriously tarnished. . . . The damage to the department’s reputation cannot continue.”
His remarks, which lasted 3 1/2 minutes, were in sharp contrast to his cautious statements in the past four weeks in which he always stopped short of calling for Gates’ resignation.
Earlier, Bradley had said Gates’ resignation would be “the only way to start the healing process” in a city divided by the beating, but that the decision to resign was up to the chief.
But Tuesday, Bradley crossed the line. “Unfortunately, Chief Gates has not recognized the impact he is having on the LAPD,” the mayor said. “His reactions to the tragic Rodney King beating have made an ugly situation even worse.”
“As mayor,” he added, “I have reluctantly concluded that I can no longer wait for Daryl Gates to do what is best for the LAPD.”
Instead, the mayor continued, Gates has embarked upon a public relations campaign to keep his job “that has only deepened our wounds and widened our differences.”
Gates denied that he has orchestrated a public relations effort on his own behalf, saying that thousands of “just plain folks” have come to his defense.
The chief stressed that he would step down only if a panel he appointed last week to review LAPD procedures determines that he has been “derelict” in performing his duties.
“If they find that I have been derelict . . . I’ll say goodby. But I don’t think I have,” Gates said.
He read from a 1989 report by City Atty. James K. Hahn criticizing Bradley’s ties to financial institutions that dealt with the city and the mayor’s efforts to secure city funds for a scandal-plagued African trade group.
“Ethics is what we’re really talking about,” Gates told reporters after citing the report. “He’s called on me to do the moral thing, getting into ethics. Well, no one’s ever questioned my ethics. No one’s ever questioned my integrity or my honesty.”
Last month, the Los Angeles County grand jury indicted four LAPD officers in the beating on charges that include assault with a deadly weapon and assault under the color of authority. The officers have pleaded not guilty.
In addition, six other government inquiries into the Police Department and the King incident are under way.
Gates was appointed chief by the Police Commission in 1978. According to the City Charter, a police chief has Civil Service protections and can be fired or disciplined by the commission only if it can show “cause,” usually interpreted to mean misconduct or willful neglect of official duties.
As a result, there have been calls in City Hall to change the Charter. Despite the legal difficulties in ousting Gates, a public groundswell--fueled in part by Bradley’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union--has grown demanding his resignation.
Others who want him removed include several African-American groups, such as the Urban League and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
A variety of local and national political leaders also have called on Gates to step down, including City Councilman Michael Woo, state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware).
In contrast, Gates has received the support of Gov. Pete Wilson, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and several City Council members, including Picus, Hal Bernson, Joan Milke Flores and council President John Ferraro.
Bradley’s speech, according to sources at City Hall, culminated weeks of behind-the-scenes efforts directed by his top aide, Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani.
On March 15, Bradley appointed civil libertarian Stanley Sheinbaum to the Police Commission, a move hailed by those seeking the chief’s resignation. On March 26, Bradley replaced one of the five Civil Service commissioners who eventually could decide whether Gates should be fired.
The mayor’s office also worked with community groups that are demanding new LAPD leadership and lobbied council members to publicly denounce the chief.
In public, however, Bradley said his office was not working to unseat Gates. The mayor repeatedly said he would not call for the chief to step down because it was unlikely that Gates would do so.
Under fire from various community groups and political leaders, Gates has responded with his own public relations campaign. He has appeared on a number of television talk shows--including “Prime Time Live” and “Face the Nation"--and addressed a crowd of supporters at a Police Academy rally. Los Angeles police officers and their supporters began wearing blue ribbons to symbolize their solidarity with the chief and his department.
Gates’ most comprehensive effort to restore confidence in the LAPD came last week, when he announced a 10-point plan to improve community relations and explore the causes of police brutality.
The cornerstone of the plan was the appointment of a committee chaired by retired state Supreme Court Justice John A. Arguelles. The committee is to conduct an exhaustive inquiry into the LAPD’s training practices and policies.
On Monday, Bradley countered by announcing the appointment of his own review panel, headed by former Deputy Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher.
Arguelles and Christopher said Monday they had discussed coordinating the efforts of their committees.
The Christopher Commission was a key element in the mayor’s campaign to remove Gates from office, and the announcement that the two committees could work together appeared to temporarily frustrate Bradley’s attempts at persuading the chief to resign.
In a statement released Tuesday, Bradley spokesman Bill Chandler hinted that accepting members of the Gates-appointed Arguelles Commission into the mayor’s commission would compromise the latter’s independence.
“A review (of the Police Department) that does not look to the city or the LAPD for financing or staffing is the only way to ensure the commission’s independence,” Chandler said. “And a completely independent review is what the city needs.”
By contrast, Gates said that merging the two panels “makes a lot of sense and so I’m all for it.”
In another development Tuesday, ACLU officials said they had gathered petitions with 20,000 signatures demanding Gates’ resignation.
The ACLU also released a report, compiled by staff in New York and Washington, outlining allegations of police brutality throughout the nation. The report said the get-tough rhetoric of the “war on drugs” and the “war on crime” encourages police to become overly forceful “soldiers” in their communities.
Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, applauded Bradley’s call for the chief’s resignation.
“That is certainly something this community wants,” she said. “It’s a beginning point, but no one should think that all the problems of the department will be solved when Gates goes. Starting with new, fresh leadership is the way to go.”
A recently formed group called Citizens in Support of the Chief of Police presented the Police Commission with 13,000 signatures of people who support Gates and want him to remain as chief.
Group spokeswoman Peggy Rowe Estrada said the pro-Gates group represents “truly the silent majority.”
Times staff writers Leslie Berger, Glenn F. Bunting, John Kendall, John L. Mitchell, James Rainey and Sheryl Stolberg contributed to this story.