South L.A. residents Thursday night debated LAPD Chief Bill Bratton's tunure, and whether the next chief should share his qualities. Bratton has announced his resignation, and the L.A. Police Commission is holding a series of meetings seeking the public's input on who should replace him.
KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports on last night’s meeting in the Crenshaw District.
Frank Stoltze: Some in the audience said the new chief should be just like the old one. Lawrence Tolliver runs a barbershop in South L.A. He praised Bratton for lowering crime and improving relations with a South Los Angeles community often suspicious of police.
Lawrence Tolliver: We’re sad that he’s leaving but we’re glad that he’s going to do what he wants to do as a private individual. So if you could clone him, clone him twice.
Stoltze: A few of the 40 or so people who showed up echoed Tolliver; others said Bratton’s no model. Christina Heatherton works as a researcher at USC and lives downtown. She said she’s seen too many homeless men and women arrested in the LAPD’s crackdown on Skid Row.
Christina Heatherton: Throwing poor black and brown people in prison is not a sign of progress, and I stand speaking on behalf of many people saying that the next chief of police better not follow in the footsteps of Chief Bratton.
Stoltze: Debra Burton of South L.A. agreed.
Debra Burton: We need a Los Angeles police chief that respects the most basic and fundamental rights of his citizens.
Stoltze: Some, like Margo Harris of South L.A., said they’d like to see the next police chief work more with the city's many ethnic communities.
Margo Harris: There are relationships that can be built. And there’s respect that can be built. The city has set up neighborhood councils and all these different processes, but its tokenism.
Stoltze: A few years ago, distrust in the LAPD ran so deep that many people repeatedly said the only way to change the department was to find someone from another city to lead it. Today, more people seem comfortable with promoting from the inside the department, including longtime Crenshaw District resident Iona Diggs.
Iona Diggs: It should be somebody that knows the area here, knows the LAPD up and down. If we go outside and get someone, they won’t know the area.
Stoltze: Among those in the audience: three LAPD deputy chiefs and an assistant chief who are competing to succeed Bratton. They included Assistant Chief Sharon Papa and Deputy Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, who are vying to become the first woman to head the department. Deputy Chiefs Earl Paysinger and Charlie Beck were also there.
Charlie Beck: Ya know, I’m interested in being the next chief of police, so I want to hear what they have to say so I can structure my plans accordingly.
Stoltze: Did you learn anything or hear anything that stood out tonight?
Beck: Well, ya know, I heard that many of the people who came to this meeting many are from South Los Angeles, are very desirous of an approachable chief who had an ability to communicate with diverse groups.
Stoltze: Naturally, Beck said he would be that chief.
It’s up to the five civilian members of the police commission to whittle down the list of qualified candidates to three. Commission President John Mack promised the panel would take the comments of residents into consideration. He said they hope to look at candidates from across the country, as well as from within the LAPD. The commission hopes to provide a list of three - in order of preference - to the mayor by mid-November.
The mayor makes the final decision, subject to approval by the L.A. City Council.