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The Search for a New Chief : Many candidates, fortunately, apply for the huge job

Los Angeles needs a new police chief, and, despite nearly a year of controversy that is still partly unresolved, there is nationwide interest in the job.

Thirty-two candidates have applied to lead the L.A. Police Department into the next decade. That’s reassuring.

The selection process is now under way. A screening committee, appointed by the city’s Civil Service Commission, will make the first cut.

On the basis of resumes and candidates’ essays about the “three main issues and problems” facing urban police departments, that committee will winnow the list to 10 to 15 candidates.

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Ethnic and racial groups, as well as women, are represented on the citizens panel. But why are there not more law enforcement specialists? And where are African-American men, the group that most often charges mistreatment by police officers?

Those omissions should be corrected when the next panel in the hiring process is formed, one that will conduct the all-important interviews.

During interviews, finalists should be asked to explain how “community policing” would work and how they would implement it in a time of budget constraints.

In the past, interviews--a more subjective measure than written exams--have sometimes been a barrier to minority and female advancement. The Christopher Commission, which studied the LAPD after the Rodney King beating incident, documented a concentration of minority and female officers at the entry level of the department.

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The next chief should also be asked to compare the strengths and weaknesses of the LAPD with those of other big-city departments.

Outsiders will have to do better than applicants from inside the department because the City Charter gives preference to LAPD veterans.

But whether the post is filled by a visionary police administrator from outside the city or a sensitive and articulate candidate from inside the department, the new chief will inherit a force that, one hopes, is eager to do its duty for all the people of Los Angeles and to put the past behind it. The search is on.


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