L.A. welcomes its new chief with fanfare
Carolyn Pesce;Jonathan T. Lovitt
LOS ANGELES - When Daryl Gates was inaugurated as police chief 14 years
ago, the ceremony was held in a gym and took all of 15 minutes.
Tuesday, Willie Williams, 48, was put in the same office - but this time with the
pomp and circumstance of an inauguration. Gates - who resigned under pressure
- didn't attend.
With TV cameras carrying the event worldwide, 2,000 dignitaries, city leaders
and officers mobbed the Police Academy lawns for a ceremony that featured a
six-helicopter flyover and three-tiered podium.
Afterward Williams headed for a round of celebrations, including a glittering
Century City party hosted by Mayor Tom Bradley. Williams, Philadelphia's
former police commissioner, was flanked by about 70 friends and relatives. ``My
family traveled 3,000 miles to be here, and it was nice for them,'' he said.
The scope of Tuesday's events can be attributed to 16 months of scandal and
infighting following the Rodney King beating, which have made the police chief
job the world's most famous police post.
Quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Williams struck a be-nice tone: ``Our
city and its police department are both undergoing one of the most difficult
periods in (their) history. We must begin talking with each other and not at each
Williams told officers he'll start meeting with them regularly this week: ``I will
be your spokesperson as well as your protector.'' Welcome words to police union
President Bill Violante. ``He's got a tough job but we're going to work with him,''
Violante says. ``There's been a tremendous amount of police bashing ... and
we're hoping that will end.''
Williams did hit a few hard notes - including the question of funding. ``People
need to realize that police services are basic requirements,'' he said. ``... I'll fight
any budget cuts loudly.''
He also blasted rapper Ice-T and the music industry for the song Cop Killer. ``I
have major problems with it as an American, as a parent and as a 30-year police
officer,'' Williams said. ``I have buried five police officers during my career. ... I
think it's a disgrace that any singer would use such vulgarity and give the
implication that killing an officer is OK.''
Observed Warren Christopher, who chaired a commission study of the
department and recommended sweeping changes: ``The chief has very broad
shoulders, and I think he'll be more than able to stand up to any political
Contributing: Sally Ann Stewart
CUTLINE:WELCOMED: New Police Chief Willie Williams, with 10-month-old
granddaughter Alaina, promised to be `spokesperson' and `protector' for officers.