Crime & Justice

Police Commission president on what the public wants in a new LAPD chief

Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff is on a subcommittee that will vet the candidates for chief. He also collects typewriters.
Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff is on a subcommittee that will vet the candidates for chief. He also collects typewriters.
John Rabe

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The city of Los Angeles is in the process of selecting a new chief of police. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced he would retire on June 27 after leading the department for more than eight years.

Under the city charter, the five-member civilian Police Commission recommends three candidates to the mayor, who makes the final choice. The commission has created a subcommittee of President Steve Soboroff and Vice President Matt Johnson to review candidates forwarded to the panel by the city's personnel department. The city begins accepting applications the first week of March.

Soboroff spoke with KPCC about the process.

Why is the police commission conducting a survey and holding a series of six public hearings on who should be the next chief?

We want the input of the communities as we write the "help-wanted" ad for the next chief. It isn’t just checking a box.  We want to get input from different communities, from different influentials, and different groups of what they want to see in their next chief – so we can create an application process that encourages the best in America to apply.

What have you heard in the public meetings and other conversations that people want in a new chief?

Compassion for underserved. Media presence. Political savvy. It goes on and on. And these are some of the things I have thought of but not as deeply. Experience in the communities, not just understanding communities. Respect for homeless. Respect for people who have drug issues. And they want to know what the next chief is thinking about the next generation of policing. It’s been very helpful.

You’ve said this is an historic choice for L.A. and the rest of the country. Why?

As L.A. goes, so goes the rest of the nation ... It’s a time when all of the country will be moving more toward community policing and they look to Los Angeles as a place to come study.

You’ve got the haves and have-nots when it comes to community policing. Most of the issues that have hurt the entire police industry -  and hurt trust in the industry – have happened in places that don’t understand community policing.

Should the next chief come from outside the LAPD or inside?

My hope – and I don’t know — is the best candidate for chief of police is an insider or a recent insider – meaning they were at the LAPD and recently left for a job at another department.

I don’t believe there is another Bill Bratton around. [Bratton was the former New York Police Commissioner who made dramatic reforms at the LAPD during his 2002-09 tenure as chief].  I mean there may be. We needed Bill Bratton when we needed him … but the idea of needing another outsider that doesn’t know the community but is able to implement a massive change in the police department – we have to look at today’s circumstances, not yesterday’s.

Also for the 10,800 police officers who work for us and who may dream of someday of being chief – I think from a morale perspective, I think people should feel they can work their way up and do just what Charlie Beck did.

What are the two biggest parts of the LAPD’s chief’s job?

By being the CEO of the department, I think the most important thing he or she can do is to surround himself or herself with great people.

The second thing is the chief of police needs to be someone who is trusted, who is into this with his heart ... someone who doesn’t ride in the car in the parade – they get out and walk the line and shakes the hands of the people, someone who makes people in all parts of the community feel he or she cares about protecting and serving them.

The LAPD and city personnel department are conducting a survey seeking input on the characteristics people want in a new chief.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining public meetings on what the public is looking for in the next chief. The community can also comment at the weekly police commission meeting at LAPD headquarters. The commission meets on Tuesdays starting at 9:30 a.m.