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Mayor Appoints 2 Civic Leaders to Seats on Police Commission : City Hall: Attorneys Edith R. Perez and Raymond C. Fisher would join panel struggling to implement voter-approved policing reforms. Council approval is expected.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One grew up in a family of immigrant farm workers, made Phi Beta Kappa at UC Davis, worked on the California Law Review at UC’s Boalt Hall and now is a partner in a prominent Downtown law firm.

The other once clerked for a U.S. Supreme Court justice, serves on the boards of the Legal Aid Foundation and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and played a key role in the Christopher Commission study that led to Police Department reforms in the wake of the 1991 Rodney G. King beating.

Together, Edith R. Perez and Raymond C. Fisher will help chart the future of the Los Angeles Police Department as it struggles to rebound from the beating, which still haunts the city.

Mayor Richard Riordan on Tuesday announced that he has selected Perez, 40, and Fisher, 56, to join the influential Los Angeles Police Commission. Their appointments, whose required approval by the City Council is widely expected, come as the LAPD and its policy-setting citizens commission struggle to pick up the pace of implementing voter-approved reforms enacted after the King beating. Other matters complicate their task: The department’s relationship with the community is once again being tested after a police officer about two weeks ago shot and killed a 14-year-old suspected gang member in Lincoln Heights. In addition, the department suffers from low morale and high attrition as scores of experienced officers retire or leave the force for higher-paying jobs in other communities.

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The two seats on the five-member commission have been vacant more than a month since Commissioners Enrique Hernandez Jr. and Gary Greenebaum resigned in frustration after the City Council overturned the commission’s reprimand of Police Chief Willie L. Williams.

“Together, Edith and Ray represent over 40 years of commitment to the city of Los Angeles,” Riordan said in introducing his choices at a City Hall news conference Tuesday.

Riordan and his closest advisers made an extensive search before choosing Perez and Fisher, culling the resumes of close to 100 prospects, sources said. The mayor, who interviewed Perez and Fisher, was looking for qualified candidates who would help keep an ethnic, gender and geographic balance on the board. Neither appointee applied for the post; both said Riordan urged them to take the positions, citing their long records of public service.

Perez, a partner in Latham & Watkins, said her first priority will be to improve police-community relations; her second goal is to “ensure that our officers have the resources necessary to do their job.”

“Communities want to feel safe from crime, but they also want to feel that the police will treat the residents of their neighborhood fairly, and that the residents will be understood and respected by our officers,” Perez said.

A Riordan appointee to the Recreation and Parks Commission, Perez also is on the boards of Pitzer College, Loyola Marymount University, the Community Enhancement Corp., which is an affordable housing organization, and the local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

She is a founder of the Alta California Research Center, a Latino policy think tank, and is co-chairwoman of a fund-raising campaign for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Foundation.

Fisher, senior partner in the Los Angeles business litigation and constitutional law firm Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, served as president of the Civil Service Commission during then-Mayor Tom Bradley’s Administration. As a counsel to the Christopher Commission, he worked with the City Council to put the commission’s reform recommendations before voters, who resoundingly approved them in 1992.

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One key recommendation was to move to community policing, a collaborative, neighborhood-based style that calls for strong ties between officers and the communities they serve.

“It’s a fascinating opportunity, given my work on the Christopher Commission,” Fisher said of his appointment. “It’s an opportunity to help implement those recommendations.”

But the job is also a “daunting” commitment of time and a “great challenge and responsibility,” Fisher added, noting that the Christopher Commission also called for a strong Police Commission to set policy and monitor department progress and activities.

“Some progress has been made, but I understand that much needs to be done to carry out the full range” of reforms, said Fisher, a graduate of Stanford Law School and a onetime clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan.

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Both appointees said they were not discouraged by the council’s overturning of the commission’s reprimand of Williams, for allegedly lying about whether he accepted free accommodations in Las Vegas. And both said they wanted to learn more about the Lincoln Heights shooting and community protests before passing judgment.

“Before I get troubled, I want to get informed,” Fisher said.

Joining Riordan and his two nominees at the news conference were the three remaining police commissioners, who issued a statement praising the mayor’s choices.

“These two individuals clearly have solid backgrounds in local government and have proven that they are committed to enhancing the city of Los Angeles. It is our hope that the City Council will confirm both nominations expeditiously and that we may collectively continue to implement our reform agenda for the Los Angeles Police Department,” the statement said.

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The appointments were widely praised and Councilman Marvin Braude, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, enthusiastically predicted that the nominees will sail smoothly through the approval process.

“These are busy, productive people who are making a significant contribution to public service. . . . It’s a credit to Mayor Riordan that he got people of this caliber to agree to serve,” Braude said.

Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has extensively battled police misconduct, hailed the appointments, particularly that of Fisher.

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“Ray Fisher is a wonderful choice, and I commend the mayor for appointing him. I’m just so pleased,” Ripston said. She added that although she did not know Perez, she was impressed with her resume.

The Police Protective League, which sent officials to the news conference, was guardedly optimistic about the choices.

“We want to give them a fair shake, and we desperately need a full commission,” said Dennis Zine, a league spokesman. “We’re hoping we can continue our good rapport that we had with the [previous and remaining] commissioners,” Zine said, who added, half joking: “And I hope they can all walk on water.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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Profile: Edith R. Perez

After growing up the daughter of immigrant farm workers in Northern California, Edith Perez became the first Latina partner in a prestigious Downtown law firm.

* Born: Aug. 30, 1954, in Acambay, Mexico

* Residence: Los Feliz

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* Education: Phi Beta Kappa at UC Davis, bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish literature. JD from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, associate editor of California Law Review

* Career highlights: Partner in Latham & Watkins, specializing in real estate law and finance; worked as a deputy probation officer in Yuba County before attending law school; constituent service coordinator for then-Assemblyman John Thurman.

* Interests: gardening

* Family: Married to Curt Holguin, a deputy city attorney for Los Angeles; they have two daughters, ages 4 and 10 months.

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* Quote: “I was born in Mexico, and my father was a farm worker in a rural California town. I have memories of discrimination and poverty. I can identify with many in the community.”

Profile: Raymond C. Fisher

During a distinguished private legal career, Raymond C. Fisher has continued to find time to serve on community and legal service foundation boards.

* Born: July 12, 1939, in Oakland

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* Residence: Sherman Oaks

* Education: UC Santa Barbara, bachelor’s degree, with honors, in political science, member of Blue Key National Honor Society; JD from Stanford Law School, editor of Stanford Law Review.

* Career highlights: Founding partner of the L.A. office of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe; former managing partner in Tuttle & Taylor; deputy general counsel to the Christopher Commission; former president of Los Angeles Civil Service Commission; board member, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Constitutional Rights Foundation and William J. Brennan Jr. Center for Justice; served as law clerk to Justice Brennan.

* Interests: Swimming, spending time with 3-year-old granddaughter.

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* Family: Married to Nancy Leigh Fisher, an English teacher; two grown children.

* Quote: “The watchword was--and is-- accountability.


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