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Chief LAPD Spokesman Seeks Union Job : Labor: If elected, Lt. Fred Nixon would be the first black and the first high-profile management official to be a director.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After four years as chief spokesman for Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and Los Angeles Police Department management, Lt. Fred Nixon on Thursday took the unusual step of filing for a seat on the Board of Directors of the police union.

If his campaign this fall is successful, Nixon could become the first highly visible Parker Center management official--and the first black officer--to gain a director’s seat on the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

And he would be joining a labor bargaining unit that will be heavily involved in negotiations with police managers and City Hall over the imposition of LAPD reform measures proposed by the Christopher Commission.

Nixon, a 25-year police veteran, agreed that change is needed and inevitable.

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“There are some things that clearly could be improved,” he said. “But it would be absolutely irresponsible to completely restructure and completely change the face of the Los Angeles Police Department.”

Nixon was lobbied by union officials to run for the spot despite his years as a management figure.

“The league would have an inside track into management, and would be able to heal a lot of the wounds with management that have hit this department this year,” said one Gates adviser. “Nixon would be a good behind-the-scenes guy for the league.”

But others questioned whether his years as a spokesman for management might hurt him in a campaign for a union job that would involve supporting rank-and-file officers. “You’ve got to wonder about his allegiances,” said one source, who defends officers in disciplinary matters.

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Nixon, 46, is expected to find considerable opposition in the race from Lt. Ken Staggs, who has built a long career as the LAPD’s watchdog on the city pension board. Staggs conceded that Nixon’s name recognition is high.

But Staggs argued that he has done more over the years to benefit individual officers.

Several police officials said Nixon’s candidacy in many ways will be a measure of Gates’ popularity among his troops. In the months after the March 3 police beating of Rodney G. King, when many community leaders were calling for Gates to resign, the league and the majority of sworn officers stood solidly behind him.

Nixon, commenting on the Christopher Commission findings, echoed Gates’ statement that he was “opposed to anything that would politicize the office of the chief of police.” But he did not go as far as Gates in criticizing much of the panel’s work.

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Instead, Nixon predicted that the Police Department would undergo a significant change. He said he believes he could be more instrumental during that period as a union official rather than as a management spokesman.

“There will be some assaults on officers’ rights,” Nixon said, “and those assaults will come in the form of proposed changes to state and local statutes that govern officers’ rights. And I can’t think of any other way to be more effective in fighting for officers’ rights than as a member of the league’s Board of Directors.”


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