Andre Birotte Jr. nominated to be U.S. attorney for Southern California

Andre Birotte Jr., who for the last six years has served as the Los Angeles Police Department’s inspector general, has been tapped by President Obama to become the top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, the White House announced Thursday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Birotte, 43, would become the first black man to serve as U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.

The Times reported in October that he was the likely nominee.

“I am honored and humbled by this nomination,” said Birotte, who learned of the news early Thursday while visiting family on the East Coast for the holidays.

As U.S. attorney, he would oversee the nation’s second-largest office with about 275 lawyers and a seven-county jurisdiction that spans most of Southern California.

It would mark his second stint in the office, where he worked as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1995 to 1999.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who recommended Birotte, praised him for having the support of both the police officers he is charged with investigating as inspector general and the various community groups who turn to his office with complaints regarding alleged police abuses.

“This ability to command respect from all sides bodes well for his nomination,” Feinstein said in a press release.

Paul W. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents most of the department’s nearly 10,000 officers, echoed that sentiment.

Weber called Birotte a man of “fairness and integrity” who sought out the league’s views on various situations that arose while he was the LAPD’s watchdog.

“He treated us as equals. He wanted our input,” Weber said. “Then he made whatever decision he needed to make.”

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who has dealt with Birotte on issues including the federal consent decree enacted in the wake of the Rampart scandal and officer-involved shootings, said: “He didn’t always see things as I saw them. But I never felt him to be someone who was swayed by politics or the media or the vocal minority. He is swayed by doing the right thing.”

The U.S. attorney position has been vacant since the September resignation of Thomas P. O’Brien, a career prosecutor who oversaw a massive increase in criminal filings and a wave of new hiring in the office.

O’Brien’s aggressive approach to law enforcement made him extremely popular with local officers and federal agents, but resulted in criticism by some within his own office over the perception that he had implemented a quota system.

O’Brien, now a partner at Paul Hastings, said in an e-mail:

“I have known and greatly respected Andre for over 15 years. The president has made an outstanding choice in selecting an accomplished lawyer and leader to guide the finest U.S. attorney’s office in the nation.”

As inspector general, Birotte reports to the Los Angeles Police Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department.

Birotte’s main job is conducting internal investigations so commissioners are better informed when making policy decisions or rulings on such issues as the use of deadly force by officers.

The job frequently thrusts him into some of the department’s biggest controversies, including the televised beating of an unarmed car theft suspect and the melee in MacArthur Park that resulted in the discipline of more than a dozen officers.

The job requires Birotte to work with -- and be critical of -- the LAPD, a task that he and all of his predecessors found challenging.

During his first stint in the U.S. attorney’s office, Birotte prosecuted fraud, bank robberies and narcotics cases, among others.

He began his legal career as a public defender in Los Angeles.

Birotte graduated from Tufts University with a degree in psychology in 1987 and Pepperdine University School of Law four years later.

He lives in the San Fernando Valley with his wife and three children.

Details regarding Birotte’s Senate confirmation hearing were not immediately available.