In 2001, then–Mayor James Hahn chose former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton to run the Los Angeles Police Department, denying LAPD Chief Bernard Parks a second term.
Some police observers say Bratton’s appointment ushered in a new era of low crime rates and improved morale within the department; it also was seen as one of Hahn’s most successful moves as mayor. But it may have cost him his re-election bid in 2005, as Parks’ supporters in the African-American community were angered for his snub of the African-American chief.
Mayor Eric Garcetti's choice as the next LAPD chief may not carry the same historical weight as Hahn’s appointment of Bratton, but it could set the stage for how the city — and perhaps the country — views the nation’s second largest police force well into the next decade.
Two of the three finalists to replace Chief Charlie Beck are veteran LAPD insiders: deputy chief Robert Arcos and assistant chief Michel Moore. The third contender, San Francisco Police Chief William “Bill” Scott, was with LAPD for 27 years before accepting the San Francisco job in 2017.
While the “who will be the next chief” guessing game has flown under the radar in some circles, the selection process took on a new dynamic last week after the discovery of a previously unknown LAPD Internal Affairs investigation that drew scrutiny on Arcos, who has been with the department since 1988.
In 2006, his daughter Chelsea was involved in a hit-and-run accident that killed two people. Arcos, a lieutenant at the time, was accused of trying to influence the county probation department to offer his daughter a favorable report. LAPD launched an internal investigation and cleared Arcos.
In a Los Angeles Times interview, the investigator on the fatal hit-and-run case for the California Highway Patrol, David Pokorny, stated that he had no proof that Arcos tried to influence the investigation, but added that he thought the Internal Affairs investigation was a “massive cover-up.”
After the Internal Affairs investigation was reported in the Los Angeles Times, Arcos tweeted that the experience made him “more empathetic to the plight of families and more passionate about the obligation to work with the schools, programs and the community to reduce drunk driving."
“Learning that my daughter made the choice to drink and drive and in turn caused the death of two people was the most devastating news that I have ever received,” he wrote in his tweet. “On behalf of my daughter and my family, I apologize for her actions.”
Garcetti recently told reporters that his intention was not to “fulfill a demographic pool,” but there are political overtones surrounding his selection. Many of the city’s powerful elected Latino leaders have lined up behind Arcos, who if chosen would be the city’s first Latino chief, despite the news about the Internal Affairs investigation. Scott, who is well known in South Los Angeles, has significant support from the African-American community.
“Today there remains mistrust among many Los Angeles residents because of the continued controversial officer-involved shootings of unarmed African-Americans and Latinos by members of the Los Angeles Police Department,” states a letter sent to Garcetti by Holman United Methodist Church pastor Kevin Salus and Project Islamic Hope president Najee Ali.
“To be clear, our coalition is not supporting Chief Scott based on his race. He is the only finalist who has experience serving as police chief of a major city. That is the type of leadership we need in Los Angeles now from someone who can hit the ground running," the letter says.
Moore, who has been with the LAPD since 1981, is in charge of the department’s patrol operations. He is known, according to various sources, as an intense but fair supervisor. He was a finalist for the job of police chief in 2009 before Beck was eventually chosen.
"Mike Moore is probably the hardest-working deputy chief I ever worked under," said retired Cmdr. Valentino Paniccia, who was Moore's second-in-command in the San Fernando Valley, in a 2009 interview. “If anyone is accusing him of being a micromanager” — and some do — "it's because they weren't doing their job.”
The new LAPD leader will inherit a department where the city’s homicides have dropped considerably but violent crimes rose last year for the fourth straight year. Despite that figure, the department is viewed by more than 70 percent of the public as doing an “excellent” or “good” job of policing, according to a recent Loyola Marymount University study.
The view of crime and the LAPD breaks down along ethnic lines. Asians and whites tend to view the crime and public safety situation as good, while Latinos and blacks are less confident, most describing it as fair at best, the study said.
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Beck is largely viewed favorably by the public, by 65 percent of whites and 58 percent of Latinos. More than six in 10 in the African-American community “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of the chief’s performance.
Much of that could be due to a series of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men during Beck’s nearly 10-year tenure and others who have died while in police custody. The outgoing chief recently obtained a temporary restraining order against Sheila Hines-Brim after she threw the ashes of her niece, who died in police custody on 2016, at Beck during a Police Commission meeting last month..
For his part, Beck has at times gone against the status quo. He recommended that former LAPD Officer Clifford Proctor be prosecuted for fatally shooting homeless man Brendon Glenn on Venice Beach in 2016. He joined other city leaders in resisting the Trump administration’s call to report undocumented immigrants to federal immigration authorities for deportation.
Beck is set to retire on June 27. Garcetti has said that he plans to make his decision on the new chief as early as this week.