Who should be the next chief of the LAPD? Public shrugs as city asks for input

Shortly after LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced his retirement in January, the guessing game began at department headquarters over who would replace him.

Factions formed behind the first contenders. Since then, many on the staff have begun scrutinizing Mayor Karen Bass’s interviews and public appearances for clues about her thinking as she prepares to choose the next leader. Agents have spent the past few months examining rumors about potential candidates on private Facebook groups.

But for all the fixation on finding the leader within the Los Angeles Police Department, the public has largely responded with a collective shrug. As the Police Commission continues its citywide listening tour to learn what residents want to see in the department’s next chief, many checks have seen low turnout. Organizers said a meeting aimed at teenagers was shut down last week due to low attendance.

Asked about the apparent lack of public interest in the search process, a Bass spokeswoman said she had met with a cross-section of Angelenos and was awaiting the results of a community survey that would inform her decision.

“Proactive engagement is essential,” said spokesperson De’Marcus Finnell. “During the course of the research, Mayor Bass convened and met directly with hundreds of LAPD officers, members of the Chamber of Commerce, anti-violence response organizations, crime victims, and community leaders. civil rights organizations to discuss what they want to see in the next leader. »

LAPD Captain Christopher Zine, left, Mayor Karen Bass and former Chief Michel Moore among a crowd

LAPD Capt. Christopher Zine, left, Mayor Karen Bass and then-Chief Michel Moore tour the Police Academy on Dec. 7.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Among the handful of speakers during a virtual town hall for residents of the western San Fernando Valley, the majority said the next chief cop should be someone from the ranks of the LAPD. They argued that it would take too long for an outsider to become familiar with the history of the department and the dynamics of a city as large and diverse as Los Angeles.

Others said they hope the next chief will improve officer morale and do something to reduce long wait times for the city’s non-emergency hotline. Lionel Mares, who spent decades in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office before retiring, said the department needed a leader who wouldn’t just “attend high-level meetings to obtain information,” but who would also leave police headquarters and spend time in various communities.

Most speakers expressed support for Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton, who served a lengthy stint in the Valley before taking over the detective bureau. Hamilton is one of several current and former senior LAPD officials who confirmed to the Times that they have applied or intend to apply.

Bass will make the final selection from a list of candidates narrowed down by the Police Commission. Commissioners said they hope to finish evaluating what could be dozens of candidates and offer Bass their top three suggestions in August.

Moore remained a consultant on the chief’s research and technology upgrades, earning $20,000 a month, according to a contract approved by the commission.

A commission spokesperson said at least 18 people applied last week, ahead of the June 16 deadline.

Those who confirmed to the Times that they have applied or intend to apply include Deputy Chief Blake Chow, who oversees LAPD special operations; Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides, commander of the department’s Southern Office; Deputy Chief Ruby Flores, who heads the Valley Bureau; Deputy Chief Donald Graham, who heads the Office of Transit Services; Robert Arcos, a former LAPD deputy chief who works for the district attorney’s office; and Art Acevedo, who led police departments in Austin, Texas, Houston and, briefly, Miami.

Whoever gets the job will have to address the complex and interrelated issues facing the city, including homelessness and the fentanyl crisis. Running the LAPD involves balancing often conflicting demands: reducing crime without trampling on constitutional rights. Crack down on problem officers and excessive force, without alienating the base. Put more police on the streets, while keeping a diverse force and maintaining recruiting standards. And reduce costs as the city budget shrinks.

Despite what officials say is an increase in the number of applicants, the LAPD plans to finish this budget year with just over 8,908 officers — potentially the lowest sworn staffing level in more than two decades.

A commission listening session Thursday evening drew a slightly larger crowd of about two dozen residents, several of whom said the most important characteristic the next leader should possess was the “courage” to take difficult decisions.

Another speaker, Brandy Muñiz, executive director of the nonprofit All Peoples Community Center, said the LAPD’s next chief must address allegations of use of force and racial profiling that have long strained relations with the LAPD. department with many black and Latino residents. “I think it would be great to have an innovator” who leverages technology to improve transparency by publishing data “to show that change is happening,” she said.

Uniformed police officers, flanked by two officers, stand guard at UCLA

Officers from the Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Culver City police departments patrol UCLA on May 23.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Another participant spoke of the importance of continuing to train officers to defuse encounters with people facing some form of crisis without the use of significant force – an area of ​​renewed focus within the department following a recent series of shootings against mentally ill people with bladed weapons such as knives.

According to a job description posted by the Northern California firm hired to conduct the search, the ideal candidate will be forward-thinking and “committed to implementing best policing practices to reduce crime and increase community trust, including by supporting alternative response models.”

“The successful candidate will also serve as a mentor to staff, leading by example and holding staff accountable,” the description states.

Baba Akili, a prominent activist with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, said he doubted the existence of such a transformative leader. But he said he hopes the new chief will not just try to appease activists by “appropriating their language” but will actually work to confront the department’s racist culture and bring the changes that the public is demanding.

“Are they going to advocate for more money for prevention and intervention in a department separate from them? I don’t think so,” Akili said following a recent commission meeting in the Valley’s Mission Hills neighborhood.

Michael Stephens of the Southern California Ceasefire Committee, a coalition of community organizations that focus on violence prevention and reentry services, said he wants the next chief to support the efforts of the Ceasefire Soldiers Network. peace, which are now an integral part of the city’s struggle. against street gang violence for years.

“We hope to have a leader who recognizes that and actually implements that,” Stephens said.

Other listening sessions are planned in the coming days, officials say.

Paula Ramirez, a longtime public relations professional, wonders if low meeting attendance is due to public apathy — and the belief that high-level decisions, like selecting a new leader, are taken by powerful interests that do not represent the interests of the public. the average Angeleno.

Whoever she chooses, Bass will likely do so with an eye on her political future, either a bid for re-election in the 2026 mayoral election or a run for higher office, according to Samantha Stevens, who runs a consulting firm, the Stevens Consulting Group. The mayor’s choice of leader will also say a lot about the direction she wants the department to take and how to combat issues like retail crime and traffic deaths, which have captivated the public imagination in recent years.

“So does Bass want a police chief who will make her look tough on crime, or is she trying to return the public’s worldview to a time when we were trying to reform after the death of George Floyd? ” Stevens said. “What I’m hearing is that the LAPD needs to be fixed, but it’s not just about rogue cops. It’s very much a question of morale and responsibility.

The last two chiefs, Charlie Beck and Moore, were insiders who continued some of the reforms ordered by the federal consent decree imposed on the department in 2001, according to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit organization. based in Washington. which advises police departments on policy issues nationwide. The current search comes in a radically different climate around policing, and Bass’s choice will speak volumes about his belief that the LAPD needs a major overhaul, he said.

“Today you have a new mayor, and I just think the landscape has changed as far as expectations, and that’s the case across the country as well,” Wexler said. “People want change, but they have difficulty determining what that will look like. »

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