Williams Takes Oath as New Police Chief


In a day filled with images of old and new, of beginnings and endings, Willie L. Williams was sworn in as Los Angeles' next chief of police on Friday while his embittered predecessor, best-selling author Daryl F. Gates, finally cleared out the office he has occupied for 14 memorable years.

The morning began with Williams, 48, taking the oath of office during a private ceremony inside his newly leased condo near Hancock Park. "I raised my right hand, took the oath of office and swore allegiance," said Williams, who becomes chief at 12:01 a.m. Sunday--a tick of the clock after Gates ends his 43 years on the department.

During the ceremony, Williams was surrounded by his wife, son, the city clerk, personnel director and his new boss, Police Commission President Stanley K. Sheinbaum.

Sheinbaum said that he wanted Williams sworn in early so the transition could be immediate and that he did not want to insult Gates by holding the ceremony at Parker Center.

An outdoor extravaganza is planned for Tuesday at the LAPD Police Academy, where Williams will again recite the oath of office and deliver a speech on his plans for leading an 8,100-member department demoralized by long-running allegations of brutality, infighting by the brass and criticisms of its performance during the riots.

Three hours after the former Philadelphia police commissioner joined the LAPD, Gates strode out the door of his sixth-floor office in Parker Center for the last time, carrying a black briefcase and speaking bitterly about his critics.

He was greeted by a crowd of police officers and staff members, some of them crying, who lined the hallway applauding and chanting "We love you, Chief!" Gates, dressed in blue jeans, a rugby shirt and athletic shoes, shook hands, kissed the women and then turned to the crowd of reporters chronicling his last day at the office.

In characteristic style, the man whose memoir of his career as a cop has become a national best-seller in recent weeks took some final swipes at many of those whom he perceived as adversaries: the mayor, the Police Commission, The Times and Amnesty International, which had just issued a stinging report on brutality and torture inside the Police Department.

Saying he will "never say never" about his prospects of running for mayor next year, Gates predicted that Mayor Tom Bradley's career as a politician in Los Angeles is finished.

"Just as sure as I'm leaving here today, he will not be reelected," Gates said. "If he runs, he hasn't got a chance in the world of ever being elected in this city to anything. If he does run, he will not win. He has no future.

"That's the one nice thing about what's going to happen around here," Gates added, noting that a new mayor can pick his own Police Commission to oversee the Police Department.

"We're going to get a new Police Commission next June. All of those guys are going to be gone. They deserve to be gone. And Willie then will perhaps have a decent commission to work with and he won't have to fiddle around with what he's got."

Bradley, in a statement to The Times, responded: "Gates brought Los Angeles to the brink of disaster just to satisfy his own ego. I hope Gates reflects on his legacy as he suns himself on the beach at his San Clemente condo living on his $126,000 yearly pension paid for by the taxpayers."

Gates also took on the media, and angrily blasted a Times reporter who asked if the chief was leaving with a "bitter attitude" born out of the controversy of the Rodney G. King beating case over the last 16 months.

"The only bitter attitude I have is with you," he said. "And some of your reporter friends."

He then castigated the media in general, blaming reporters for being irresponsible by blowing the King affair "completely out of perspective."

"It was a terrible thing. Everybody agrees with that," Gates said of the King beating. "But you made it into something spectacular. You made it into something bigger than the Gulf War."

He also criticized Amnesty International, which on Friday accused the Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department of excessive force and, in some instances, of torturing suspects.

"These people are liberal do-nothings," Gates said. "They have a lousy record. . . . They are a bunch of knucklehead liberals."

At the same time, Gates praised himself, noting that he received outstanding performance ratings as chief.

"If the measure is leadership, then you won't find anyone who had a greater followship than me," he said. "So yeah, I think I've done an outstanding job."

With that, Gates pushed his way past reporters and back into the arms of congratulating well-wishers. The retiring chief was escorted by a phalanx of police motorcyclists onto the southbound lanes of the Santa Ana Freeway.

After Gates disappeared behind the snap of the elevator doors, Williams emerged from the closed chief of staff's office across the hallway on the sixth floor. Williams stood alone as the dozens of officers and staff workers who had thronged around Gates filed past Williams and returned to work.

Dressed in a gray business suit and a yellow power tie, the incoming chief spoke of renewal and reorganization. He hinted at how he hopes to rebuild the Los Angeles Police Department from the ashes of the King beating scandal.

"We will be addressing concerns about police abuse and concerns about the misuse of force, and about sexism and racism, and we're going to look at our training," he said.

"There are a lot of areas we are going to address. We're going to take a whole fresh look at the department from A to Z," he added.

He indicated that he will move fast in some areas, even to the point of filling some key vacancies in the ranks of deputy and assistant chiefs.

"We'll begin to address personnel issues next week," he said. "We will have a chain of command and a line of authority in place by the end of the day Tuesday."

Saying he had not yet read the Amnesty International report, Williams nonetheless indicated that his administration will deal head-on with the issues of abuse and excessive force.

"Those of us in law enforcement are used to blanket indictments," he said. "But my job will be to get in there and separate the wheat from chaff, and where we have problems to point them out and to do it publicly.

"And the same when officers are doing a good job and need a lot of support."

He declined to be drawn into a discussion of the Gates legacy, but said: "Let's have a debate over the next few years about the quality of Willie Williams' leadership."

But that was not meant to say that he will not call his predecessor for advice from time to time.

"If I need to ask him about something, I'm not too embarrassed or too proud to pick up the phone," Williams said. "And I certainly hope if he wants something he will call me."

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