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Civil Service Commissioner Is Asked to Bow Out of Search for New Chief : Law enforcement: Top LAPD figures want Flowers to disqualify himself from the selection process. He had said he might prefer an outsider as Gates’ successor.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An association of high-ranking Los Angeles police officials eligible to become the department’s next chief has demanded that a Civil Service commissioner disqualify himself from the selection process.

The commissioner, the Rev. Kenneth Flowers, said last week that he might prefer an outsider for the chief’s job.

The demand that Flowers be disqualified came in a letter dated Thursday from an attorney representing the Los Angeles Police Command Officers’ Assn. It was addressed to the president of the Board of Civil Service Commissioners, and it followed by several days a similar letter from Chief Daryl F. Gates requesting that Flowers step aside.

Flowers, the pastor of Messiah Baptist Church, said Friday that he saw no need to disqualify himself and indicated surprise that there was such a reaction to his statement that an outsider would be “a breath of fresh air.”

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“Little did I know that when I made that statement--'breath of fresh air'--it would cause such controversy,” he said.

During a public hearing last week, Flowers said he opposed a suggestion that the field of internal candidates be broadened to include 65 captains, in addition to the 25 commanders, deputy and assistant chiefs that the city Personnel Department wants to make eligible. Critics of broadening the field have said it might discourage candidates from the outside.

Under the City Charter, outside candidates are at a disadvantage in the race for the chief’s job, because they would have to outscore all internal candidates on what will probably be an oral exam.

“I wholeheartedly agree that we do not want to do anything that would lessen the response from the open field,” Flowers said at the meeting, “because I do think it would be a breath of fresh air--and this is not to say anything completely negative against the current officers--but I think it would be a breath of fresh air maybe to have someone from the outside coming in to help in this whole process of reform.”

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Later in the hearing, Flowers’ remarks were challenged by representatives of the command officers’ group, and he twice tried to clarify them.

The first time, he said:

”. . . For the sake of harmony and healing in our city, I made that statement that it could be looked upon as a breath of fresh air to have someone that comes from the outside as opposed to within. And I made that statement in light of the Christopher Commission’s report and all of the corruption and quote-unquote things that have come out of the Police Department that many of the residents are feeling no sense of honesty or comfortability with the Los Angeles Police Department. Not all officers. But from the top. . . .”

Later, he said: ". . . This is a fair process. . . . Any candidate, whether open (from outside) or inside will have the same equal opportunities as all other candidates.”

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Flowers said Friday that “corruption” may have been the wrong word. “I will gladly retract that statement,” he said. “What I was thinking of was the wrongdoing . . . the misuse of the computer terminals, sending inappropriate messages, and the code of silence.”

The commissioners are scheduled to vote next week on whether to allow outsiders to apply.

The commissioners will then appoint two citizens’ panels to screen applications, reduce the number of candidates to 10 to 15, then interview and rank them. Names of the top six candidates will go to the Police Commission, which will make the final choice.

Names of the citizen panelists doing the initial screening will not be made public until the screening has been completed, Personnel Department officials said, to avoid their being pressured by candidates or interest groups.

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Barry Levin, the attorney for the command officers group, also objected to this secret process, calling it unnecessary. He said his association might go to court.

“As soon as we feel that the process is unfair, or even gives the appearance of an impropriety or a conflict of interest, then we will seek every available judicial means to resolve the dispute,” he said.

This could include seeking an injunction to prevent the next chief from taking office, he said, adding, “I’m not threatening to sue or anything. I’m just saying that’s the way it is if all this secret stuff . . . continues.”


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