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L.A. police commission moves to oust Chief Willie Williams

March 10, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Willie Williams, who was brought in to restore confidence in the LAPD after the Rodney King riots, should not be given a second term because he has not been an effective leader, the police commission said today.

The city needs a chief who can gain the respect of the public as well as the department’s rank-and-file, Commission President Ray Fisher said.

Williams ``did not take steps to become a respected leader in the department,″ Fisher told a news conference.

``As right as the chief may have been when he was selected, he does not have the confidence of this board to serve for the next five years.″

Fisher said the department needs someone who could better use its resources and cooperate with the commission rather than challenge its authority.

Fisher did not mention any candidates for replacing Williams.

The 15-member City Council can override the commission’s decision but needs 10 votes.

In addition, Williams, the city’s first black police chief, has said he would sue if he were not retained.

Williams, 53, was brought from Philadelphia in 1992 after the department was criticized for the Rodney King beating and failure to control riots after the initial acquittals of officers who beat King.

Williams’ predecessor, Daryl Gates, had long been accused by minorities of ignoring police brutality.

Williams rose through the ranks of the Philadelphia Police Department to become that city’s top cop. He gained recognition for his emphasis on community policing.

So when the post-riot Christopher Commission suggested that Los Angeles adopt a community policing model, Williams seemed ideal.

But half way through his five-year term, the Police Commission threatened to fire him, partly because the changes were moving slowly. In a 1995 review, the commission also warned him to improve his management skills.

The commission said Williams did well to restore public confidence in the department and was a ``welcome, calming presence″ in the volatile era in which he arrived in Los Angeles.

Fisher said the department was ``a different, and in many respects, a better department,″ but Williams had proven to be unwilling and unable to lead the 12,000 officers.

The commission took 60 days and interviewed 100 people, including community leaders, police officers and politicians before coming to its decision.

Williams’ lawyers claim the review process was subjective and that the commission _ a civilian oversight panel of mayoral appointees _ made the decision not to rehire long ago.

In a letter requesting another term, Williams said he fulfilled his promises of more patrols in the nation’s second-largest city and promotions for ethnic minorities and females.

``Furthermore, the people of Los Angeles feel safer. ... We have achieved a complete turnaround in the public’s perception of the LAPD. Due in large part to my efforts, the once-exemplary reputation of the LAPD has been largely restored,″ the letter said.

That was supported by a recent Los Angeles Times poll that found 66 percent of residents approving Williams, compared with 56 percent in June. Also, more than half felt as safe or safer than five years ago.

Violent crime has dropped more than 20 percent since Williams arrived. Complaints against officers dropped from more than 1,300 in 1991 to 602 in 1995.

Mayor Richard Riordan and Williams have clashed over issues such as the number of new officers needed and Williams’ acceptance of a Las Vegas trip paid for by a casino.

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