Crime & Justice

Ex-LAPD chief Willie Williams has died

Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams answers reporters questions during a news conference in front of the bullet scarred Bank of America in the North Hollywood section of the city in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 1, 1997, following a wild shootout through local streets that started as the bank was being robbed. Williams was the first African-American police chief in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He took over from LAPD Chief Daryl Gates following the 1992 riots.
Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams answers reporters questions during a news conference in front of the bullet scarred Bank of America in the North Hollywood section of the city in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 1, 1997, following a wild shootout through local streets that started as the bank was being robbed. Williams was the first African-American police chief in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He took over from LAPD Chief Daryl Gates following the 1992 riots.
John Hayes
Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams answers reporters questions during a news conference in front of the bullet scarred Bank of America in the North Hollywood section of the city in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 1, 1997, following a wild shootout through local streets that started as the bank was being robbed. Williams was the first African-American police chief in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He took over from LAPD Chief Daryl Gates following the 1992 riots.
In this file photo, Los Angeles police Chief Willie Williams speaks at a press conference about the murder of Bill Cosby's son, Ennis Cosby, on March 12, 1997. Williams was the first African-American police chief in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He took over from LAPD Chief Daryl Gates following the 1992 riots.
Reed Saxon


Willie Williams, the Los Angeles police chief who took over for Daryl Gates after the 1992 riots, has died.

A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed the news to KPCC but said she had no other information.

Williams was the first African-American police chief in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti offered condolences to Williams' family in a statement, and said Williams had served in the LAPD at a difficult period in the city's history.

“He served at a time when many of the reforms proposed by the Christopher Commission were being implemented," Garcetti wrote, "setting the department on course to become an international model for community policing."

Author Joe Domanick, who has been covering the LAPD for over three decades, recently told Take Two the hiring of Williams was a major turning point for a troubled department.

"After the '92 riots, the police commission and Mayor Bradley were absolutely determined that they would have an African-American chief for the first time. If you ever met Willie Williams, you would immediately like him," said Domanick, author of "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing."

Domanick said Williams was "way Peter Principle" but also described him as a "curiously incurious person" who didn't take the time to learn the nature of the city.

At the time he was selected as the new chief, Williams was serving as Philadelphia's police commissioner.

The Los Angeles Times marked the moment as "the first milestone reached by Los Angeles' civic leadership in trying to repair damage to the city's reputation caused by the [Rodney] King beating and to ease racial tensions left in its wake."

Williams was replaced in 1997 by then-deputy chief Bernard Parks.

This story has been updated.