Times editorial writer Marjorie Miller asked some of the LAPD's chief critics, supporters and stakeholders to weigh in on what qualities are needed in a new police chief. What follows are edited transcripts of those conversations.
Legal director, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
Ithink three qualities are essential for a new chief.
The first is a recognition that change is a fragile process. What happened under Chief [William] Bratton is historic. But the department changes when the culture changes, and it can fall backward if the new chief fails to preserve an ethos of respect not just of the law, but of justice.
Second is an appreciation of the history and diversity of Los Angeles. What works and doesn't work in other communities isn't necessarily the case for Los Angeles. The department will fall in line when it respects its chief, so it's critical that the chief respects the integrity, dignity and differences of the various racial and ethnic groups in the community. Those communities share the need for an effective and sensitive police force.
Third is a recognition of the relationship between crime and social injustice. We need a police chief who promotes policies that accept limitations on what police can do. Policing in skid row, for example, must work in concert with, not at cross purposes to, social and economic solutions to homelessness. Los Angeles needs a police chief who acknowledges that often the best way to stop crime is to prevent it in the first place with social programs that deal effectively with social problems.
I think the consent decree was terminated too soon for the stability of its reforms, and that instability was reinforced by the departure of Chief Bratton. We need a police chief who realizes that there is unfinished business and hard work that must be completed if the city is to have the police force it can trust to protect and serve all its residents.
Daryl F. Gates
LAPD chief from 1978 to 1992
The selection process has become so political. That troubles me. When I was selected, and when the chiefs before me were selected, we had to pass a very rigorous written examination, practically a bar exam. We then went through a series of rigorous oral examinations, and then the top three scorers were the only ones eligible to be selected by the police commissioners. Now they have changed that process, and of course [former Mayor Tom] Bradley selected Willie Williams, which was a horrible mistake. It was a political selection. Then Dick Riordan wanted the black vote, so he picked Bernard Parks. And then along came [James K.] Hahn, and he picked Bratton because the [L.A. Police] Protective League was very tired of Bernie Parks. It's totally political, and it's just a shame.
Quite frankly, I think that some of the top people within the LAPD are well qualified and can do the job. Unfortunately, I think they're going to have to do some politicking, and that is not the way to select a chief of police.
The next chief's got to be a guy who can provide leadership. That's absolutely essential. I'm not so sure any of the last three chiefs have had a lot of leadership skills, Bratton probably stronger than the others. But if you really talk to rank-and-file officers today, they're not happy with him. He's always been kind of an outsider, and the police officers feel that. Leadership requires that you will be fair in all situations, that you will not throw people under the bus, as has been done time and again with the last three chiefs. Police officers feel those things right to the core. They want to know this new chief will be fair and honest and straight-forward. They want to see strong discipline that is fair and competent. They want a chief who will lead and not follow the political winds.
Because it is political, I would never give my recommendation because there are a whole raft of political leaders who don't think much of my recommendation. I wouldn't hurt somebody that way. But sure, I have my druthers. I've looked at police administrators across this nation, and we've got more talent in the upper ranks than you can find in police chiefs anywhere in this country. I'd like to see the selection come from within. You will find that police officers are more inclined to follow somebody from inside.
-- James K. Hahn
Superior Court judge and the former mayor who selected Bratton
The next chief must provide leadership that will build on Chief Bratton's remarkable success in reducing crime, building community partnerships, restoring confidence in the department and improving the morale of the rank-and-file LAPD officers. Demonstrating that those tasks do not conflict with each other has been Chief Bratton's real contribution to the department and must be continued. Politics need to be set aside, and the decision needs to be made solely on who is best qualified to lead the LAPD forward.
President, Los Angeles Police Protective League
We need someone with impeccable integrity, a strong work ethic, an openness to new ideas and a willingness to work with varied stakeholders. We need a good listener, someone who sees value in learning from others and also from the organization. One of the problems we had in the past was that if it wasn't LAPD, it wasn't valid. Conversely, the pendulum could swing the other way where nothing within the organization is any good. There is a fine line between being very open and seeking out other ideas, but at the same time recognizing that you have an incredibly talented pool of employees here within the organization.
The challenges of the next seven years: In the short term, the largest challenge is going to be the budget and its impact on police operations and our ability to safely police this city, especially if they end up releasing thousands of parolees from prison. I don't know how we're going to do it, but we need to maintain a high level of police service with less money but a lot more bad guys in our midst.
I think there's plenty of talent within the department, and there's not necessarily a need to go outside. At the same time, let's be realistic. Chief Bratton came in from outside, and you can't say he was unsuccessful. I've been raised in this department, and we have a lot of very talented people here, but we have to be open to the possibility that there could be some incredibly talented individual who could come into this process. I think the foundation has been laid, and now it's a question of taking it to the next level and becoming an even better police department. At the rank-and-file level, we have the best, and they're looking for someone to lead them.
Los Angeles County supervisor
Chief Bratton set a high and tough standard. The trick is going to be to get someone who meets that and maybe even surpasses it. We need the same kind of consummate law enforcement professional. The example for me was in MacArthur Park. I watched Bratton stand up in front of all of us in the Latino community who were angry and hostile about what had occurred. He made commitments, told us the process would be swift and then he followed up on everything he said. He dealt with his own rank and file. Usually what you have is the "blue curtain," where they say one thing to us and go back and do something different. In this case, mistakes were made, and he owned up to them. You don't see that much, and that's what we need.
The next person has tough shoes to fill. This city still has a lot to do. We still have a huge gang problem, graffiti, safety issues. We need someone who will bring the same level of professionalism. We need someone who understands the concept of broken windows and interfacing with the neighborhood and community so they can participate. You can't do it exclusively with law enforcement.
We still don't have enough suppression of the gangs that continue to terrorize our neighborhoods. I'm supportive of the proactive programs, but when you've got the guys out there calling the shots, being bullies, making the life look glamorous, it's tough to keep these kids away from the gangs. There are too many guns out in our neighborhoods. We've got to find a way to protect the safety of our kids and neighborhoods.
Executive director, Police Assessment Resource Center
If we could clone Bill Bratton, I would do so. He had the ability to bring down crime, to implement the consent decree, to establish relationships and to inspire confidence and trust in diverse communities. Los Angeles continues to need these skills. Bratton's perspective as an outsider has been a plus, and I think his ability to assemble a team of outsiders and insiders has been to the advantage of the city. I think we could go inside this time, although Los Angeles profited from Bratton's wide perspective and experience as chief elsewhere.
It will be crucial over the next few years to make sure the reforms instituted by the consent decree take root, flourish, grow. We need a police chief who is as committed as Bratton was to the changes in culture, accountability and transparency that the consent decree brought to the LAPD.
The whole tenor of a police department can change with a change in leadership. We've seen that in Los Angeles, as much as you hope that reforms become institutionalized and divorced from personality, the fact is a chief puts his or her stamp on the department.
The consent decree required the LAPD to get an early ID system in order to spot problem officers and help them save their careers, if possible. Implementation of these provisions is yet to come in a broad-scale way, so the next chief will have to do it.
We also need someone with highly polished political skills. The relationship with the inspector general and the Police Commission will be important. The inspector general will have a heavier burden in monitoring the Police Department so the Police Commission can determine if the consent decree has taken hold. And the police chief also has to maintain good relations with the mayor and the City Council, and with communities that have historically mistrusted the police -- African American, Latino and others.