Domanick on a Second Term for Williams
Re “Why Chief Willie Williams Deserves Five More Years,” Opinion, Dec. 22: I cannot possibly express how amusing the piece by Joe Domanick is. I lived in center city Philadelphia when Willie Williams was police chief there. I watched my neighborhood slowly become a sewer. I saw crime go up, police morale hit rock-bottom levels and all sorts of aggravated crimes increase.
It shocked me when Los Angeles decided to hire Williams. It saddens me to see us continue to pretend he is the acme of police management skills, when his mediocrity and sloppy ethical style are now also a matter of record to Angelenos.
* Domanick praises Chief Williams as a “transitional figure” who, during his tenure as chief, has not witnessed scandals like the Watts riots, chokehold deaths, Dalton Avenue, Rodney King and the LAPD’s paralysis during the ’92 riots. Therefore, according to Domanick, the chief deserves another five years.
What Domanick ignores is city management’s direct culpability during those past events: The control-hold deaths occurred almost exclusively among a small group of hard-drug users, many who suffered from cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, the control holds saved millions of dollars in litigation and hundreds of injuries to police and suspects. Evidence now suggests that positional asphyxia may have contributed to deaths as well.
Dalton Avenue practices were tacitly approved by the courts, prosecutors and City Council members years before the press made them an issue. The Rodney King beating was predicted by concerned officers nine years before when they pleaded for realistic alternatives to the control-hold moratorium. Council members, guided by perceptual politics, chose the baton over holds.
Any achievements made by the LAPD are not because of Chief Williams’ management, but in spite of it. Certainly Williams is a transitional figure within the LAPD. The only question that remains is where that transition, led by city management, will lead us.
CLARK W. BAKER
* Would someone please explain all this talk about a “buyout” of Chief Williams in the event his contract is not renewed (Dec. 18)? Isn’t the whole idea of a five-year term that it has a finite end with only an option to renew, not an obligation? So what is there to buy out?