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Ex-Chief Calls Woodland Hills Home

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Willie L. Williams, the first African American chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, lives in Woodland Hills with his wife, Evelina.

After taking the oath as chief on June 30, 1992, the city’s top cop pledged to reform the Police Department, in part by emphasizing community-based policing. At the same time, he aggressively courted public support for his beleaguered department, which was rocked by the Rodney G. King beating.

Williams’ approach met success.

The department’s approval ratings, which had plummeted to 34% after the King beating, rose to 71% by 1995. But even as the Police Department’s ratings rose and violent crime dropped throughout the city, trouble began brewing for Williams within the department.

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The city’s police complained of a lack of direction, reforms recommended by the blue-ribbon Christopher Commission in 1991 languished, and doubts were raised by police commissioners regarding Williams’ leadership and his honesty. The commission voted unanimously to reprimand Williams for lying about accommodations and other services he received from a Las Vegas hotel.

Williams appealed to the City Council, which overturned the reprimand. But that controversy and others took their toll on Williams’ job approval rating, which rose at one point to 73% and by last summer had dropped to 56%.

Hoping to keep his job, Williams launched an unsuccessful campaign to have his contract renewed. A bitterly split Los Angeles City Council voted to offer Williams a $375,000 severance deal, which he accepted. As part of the agreement, Williams, who stepped down as chief May 18, continues as a consultant.

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