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Key Work in Picking Police Chief to Be Secret : LAPD: Civic leaders will cut list of candidates to about 15 in private sessions. Even names of panel members will be confidential.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Executive recruiters in the city’s Personnel Department are making a big effort to conduct a highly public search for the Los Angeles Police Department’s next chief. They have even scheduled a public hearing next week on what his qualifications should be.

But the key work in finding Daryl F. Gates’ replacement will be done in secret by a committee of civic leaders whose names will not be made public until sometime in the fall, after they have eliminated all but 10 or 15 names from a secret list of applicants.

City personnel officials say the secrecy is necessary, and customary, to shield the civic leaders from outsiders seeking to influence them.

“It’s not that we want to keep their names secret forever,” said Philip Henning Jr., assistant general manager of the Personnel Department. “It’s just that for the time they’re involved in this process . . . we don’t want people bugging them.”

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The officials say secrecy is also necessary to guarantee the privacy and protect the jobs of applicants who do not reach the final round.

The feeling is that many chiefs from around the country work at the pleasure of their mayors or city managers and would not appreciate these officials unnecessarily learning that they had applied for the Los Angeles job.

“Candidates don’t want their names known at the outset,” Henning said. “Some people will put their toe in the water, change their mind and . . . drop out.”

Applicants from outside the LAPD will be handicapped in the competition. They will have to score higher than all finalists from within the LAPD on an oral examination administered by a second panel of civic leaders and police experts, whose names will be kept secret until the interviewing starts.

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Usually, interviewing is conducted in a marathon--one hour devoted to each candidate--over two days. Panelists have great latitude in scoring.

Final selection of the new chief from a group of six highest-scoring candidates will be made by the Police Commission, probably not before March. Gates has said he will retire in April.

The Police Commission, the titular head of the Police Department, is expected to do its own interviews with the candidates before choosing one of the six.

In getting the selection process under way, Personnel Department officials have developed a tentative list of qualities they are looking for in a new chief.

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What they are looking for is not surprising--basically, someone with experience running a law enforcement agency who is creative, with good administrative and people skills.

The language the Personnel Department is using to describe these attributes is a little touchy-feely, but the attributes themselves are similar to those listed by the department in 1978, when Gates was selected.

Candidates should have “leadership, insight and sensitivity to develop a partnership with the community . . . cooperativeness as a team player with elected and appointed public officials . . . openness and listening skills . . . creativeness and the willingness to make innovative changes . . . vision to see future problems (and) administrative and management skills.”

According to the Personnel Department’s proposed job announcement, they will also need “a valid California driver’s license and a good driving record,” although the chief has his own driver. “I don’t know why we have that,” Henning said.

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Henning said the list of attributes was developed in a series of recent meetings between Personnel Department staff and members of the City Council and Police Commission, Sheriff Sherman Block, City Atty. James Hahn, representatives of the mayor’s office and the special agent in charge of the Los Angeles office of the FBI.

The list of attributes could be amended by the Civil Service Commission, which is the titular head of the Personnel Department, after the commission’s scheduled three-hour public hearing which begins at 9 a.m. Thursday in the City Council chambers.

Then advertisements will start appearing in law enforcement trade journals such as the magazine of the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, and the Personnel Department will start accepting applications.

Applications must include written answers to several items, such as: “Describe your experiences with community-based policing and policing a multicultural city.”

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Meanwhile, Personnel Department staff members will make recommendations to the Civil Service Commission about who should serve on what is usually a five-member committee to review the applications.

The top 25 officers of the 8,300-member LAPD--that is, those with a rank of commander or above--are eligible to apply for the chief’s job, as can anyone with a position of similar responsibility elsewhere.

Names of candidates who survive the initial screening are placed on an eligibility list, which is public.

At that point, Personnel Department staff say they will thoroughly check references of candidates for the job, which has an annual salary range of $124,988 to $187,482. Gates now makes $168,794.

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There will be no written test. Last time, when Gates was selected, he had to explain in writing how he would handle a series of management problems. But personnel staffers say they have surveyed other cities and found that most no longer use written tests for such high-level jobs.

Under the City Charter, the new chief will have the same Civil Service “property right” to his job that Gates enjoys, unless voters amend the charter during his first year of service, while he is on probation. The City Council this week voted to put on the ballot a charter amendment that would strip Civil Service protections from the chief’s job, giving him instead a five-year term that would be renewable once.


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