L.A.'s police chief denied 2nd term Mayor backs panel's decision; Williams
unclear about future
Jonathan T. Lovitt
LOS ANGELES -- Police Chief Willie Williams' civilian bosses, criticizing his
leadership style, voted unanimously Monday to oust him.
Williams said he had done well in his five years as head of the USA's
third-largest police department. He said he was disappointed but was unclear
about what he might do to fight for the $173,000-a-year job.
``A significant portion of this department supports the chief of police -- period,''
said Williams, 53, who was police commissioner in Philadelphia when he was
tapped for the Los Angeles job in 1992.
Mayor Richard Riordan backed the commission and suggested that Deputy Chief
Bernard Parks, a black 32-year LAPD veteran, be appointed interim chief when
Williams' five-year contract ends July 6.
Williams replaced controversial Daryl Gates in the aftermath of a racial
explosion touched off by the videotaped police beating of black motorist Rodney
Ray Fisher, president of the five-member police commission, credited Williams
with some achievements but cited a failure by Williams to become an effective
``As an African-American, the chief quickly became a symbol of positive change
to the city's minority communities as well as to the city at large,'' Fisher said. But
Williams ``did not take steps to become a respected leader.''
The City Council can overrule the commission, but that would require agreement
by 10 of the 15 council members to consider the issue.
Since Williams' arrival, violent crime has dropped more than 20% and he scored
a 66% approval rating with the public.
Complaints against officers dropped from more than 1,300 in 1991 to 602 in
``We are disappointed and we think it's unfortunate for the citizens of Los
Angeles,'' said Ira Harris, executive director of the National Association of Black
Law Enforcement Executives. ``Given the support that Chief Williams had
among the citizens, it seems that the city is losing leadership instrumental in
bringing the department even closer to the people it serves.''
``The police commission did not appreciate or chose to ignore the battle he
faced,'' said John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League. ``They
were working overtime to undermine him.''
``We feel for him,'' said Dave Hepburn of the Los Angeles Police Protective
League. ``He was given an extremely difficult task. . . . Everyone surrounding
him had 25-30 years' experience so he was put at an extreme disadvantage trying
to get the reins of the department.''
Williams was in ``over his head,'' City Councilman Richard Alatorre said.
Contributing: Steve Marshall