DEPUTY CHIEF EARL PAYSINGER is the commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Bureau — which makes him the point guy for what, during bad months, qualifies as the most violent piece of real estate in the nation. In any given year, between 40 and 50 percent of the homicides in Los Angeles occur in South Bureau.
Paysinger’s LAPD territory also covers the parts of town where law enforcement is often viewed with ferocious suspicion, yet this deputy chief seems to be on the good-guy list in the communities he serves. L.A. Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell says that Paysinger “gets it.” And when notoriously police-critical Minister Tony Muhammad had a street confrontation with a cop, it was Earl Paysinger’s cell phone that he dialed first. (Paysinger has been known to give his personal cell number out more widely than some colleagues think is sensible.)
He’s the highest-ranking African-American in the department and one of the LAPD’s most obvious rising stars. In earlier years, Paysinger was a member of former Chief Bernard Parks’ inner circle and one of his protégés. But it was when Bill Bratton promoted him to deputy chief that Paysinger really began to bloom. (One irony of his success is the rumor that, when he rose under Bratton, Parks froze him out.) He tries out creative programs; drags community activists, gang experts, academics and clergy members together for problem-solving “symposiums”; and makes a point of talking about crime from a human perspective. Plus, although neither Parks nor Bratton like to apologize, Paysinger has won converts by his willingness to admit to his own and the department’s failings.
“Earl Paysinger,” says civil-rights attorney Connie Rice, “is the real thing.”