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3 LAPD veterans vie to replace Bratton as chief

October 27, 2009 |  5:24 pm
The three finalists in the campaign to become the next chief of the Los Angeles Police Department are all department insiders: Asst. Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and Deputy Chief Michel Moore.

The names emerged Tuesday as the top choices of the Los Angeles Police Commission, and those individuals will now compete to be chosen by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to replace outgoing Chief William J. Bratton.

After a month of behind-the-scenes campaigning by candidates and interviews last week with 13  aspirants who had advanced through the application process, members of the Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD, arrived at a decision on the three finalists late this afternoon after several hours of closed-door deliberations.

The announcement of the three burst a bubble of anticipation that had been growing, with constant rumor and speculation among LAPD officials and department observers that started when Bratton announced last month his plans to step down. 

That Beck and McDonnell made the cut comes as little surprise to most LAPD watchers because both had been considered front-runners since Bratton announced his decision to step down last month. However, the selection of Moore, commander of the LAPD’s Valley Bureau, was largely unexpected, both because of his relatively low profile in the department and because his inclusion meant the exclusion of other, more experienced candidates.

Although Moore is listed in the department roster as a Latino, the selection of him and two white men is certain to spark criticism from some who expected to see a woman or African American make the list of finalists. Left out of the finalist group were assistant chiefs Earl Paysinger and Sharon Papa, two of the highest-ranking commanders on the force and who were viewed by many as strong contenders for the job.

Paysinger is the LAPD’s highest-ranking African American, and Papa the highest-ranking woman.

Under the terms of the City Charter, the Commission ranked the three in order of preference. However, the Commission’s president, John Mack, and Villaraigosa declined to reveal the order of the rankings at a news conference to announce the finalists.

Villaraigosa is scheduled to hold interviews with one finalist each day beginning Wednesday and plans to announce his choice Monday. The mayor’s choice must be ratified by a majority of the City Council in a vote tentatively planned for Nov. 10. The Police Commission is expected to appoint a temporary chief today to lead the department in the interim.

If any of the three finalists has an edge, it is presumed to be Beck, who runs the department’s detective operations.

The 32-year veteran of the LAPD has far less experience in the upper ranks of the department than the other two, but he has risen quickly under Bratton. He is widely seen as the candidate that Bratton, who has wielded quiet but significant sway in the selection process, wants as his successor. Beck, 56, is the son of a retired LAPD deputy chief and has two children serving in the department.

He is a popular figure with the rank and file, who generally view him as a serious crime-fighter, and the city’s civil rights leaders, who hold him up as a progressive thinker on community relations and police conduct. He first made a name for himself as a reformer who managed to implement changes in the department’s Rampart Division after it had crippled the department with a major corruption scandal.

McDonnell, 50, has served in the department for 28 years and, along with Bratton, has been the public face of the LAPD for several years in his role as chief of staff. Widely respected both inside the department and out, the Boston-area native in many ways was the logical heir to the top job but seemingly has struggled to build support from city power brokers, crucial to winning the post. He has tried before: McDonnell was a candidate along with Bratton in 2002 — and Bratton went on to use an extensive plan developed by McDonnell as a blueprint for reshaping the department. With Bratton’s frequent trips out of town, McDonnell has frequently been called on to stand in as chief. McDonnell has held a wide range of command assignments throughout the department, including as head of the Office of Operations, and he currently oversees a host of LAPD divisions.

He leads the committee that reviews officer shootings and is the department’s liaison to City Council members and community leaders.

If McDonnell is not selected as chief, a pressing question for the department will be whether he remains or departs for another agency.

Moore, 49, is a 27-year veteran of the LAPD and is widely credited with helping to push down crime rates in the San Fernando Valley. At the end of 2008, serious crime dropped more than 23% since 2002, with violent crime down 28%, according to department figures. He has received numerous commendations and awards for his police service, including the Department’s Medal of Valor, the Police Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal, according the LAPD’s website.

-- Joel Rubin

Photos: McDonnell, Beck, Moore. Credit: LAPD