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Police commission meeting to pick finalists for LAPD chief

October 27, 2009 |  1:06 pm

The Los Angeles Police Commission went behind closed doors this morning and intends to emerge sometime this afternoon after winnowing the list of aspiring L.A. police chiefs down to three finalists.

The five-person civilian panel that oversees the LAPD last week interviewed 13 candidates vying to replace outgoing chief William J. Bratton. From those applicants, the Commission must now select three finalists and rank them in order of preference.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is scheduled to conduct interviews with the three over the next few days and plans to announce his choice for chief on Monday. 

Even if the mayor makes his choice by then, it seems unavoidable that there will be a gap of at least a week between Bratton’s departure and the swearing-in of the new chief.

The City Council must ratify Villaraigosa’s choice and an aide to the mayor said Tuesday that he does not expect that vote to take place before Nov. 10. Commission President John Mack announced the commission’s plan to appoint a temporary chief to run the department in the interim.

Multiple sources close to the selection process, who requested that their names not be used because the process is confidential, said commission representatives have approached LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing to inquire whether he would be willing to take the assignment.

Downing, who runs the department’s counter-terrorism bureau, would be a logical choice since he was the only one of the Bratton’s deputy and assistant chiefs who did not apply for the top post. Downing did not respond immediately to an e-mail seeking comment.

Before going into private discussion, Mack indicated that considerable differences existed among commissioners on who should make the short list. He said that the panel still had “some very spirited debate” ahead of it and estimated it would not finish its discussion until about 2:45 p.m.

Since starting the process a month ago, the commission has been walking a fine line between conducting a thorough search and Villaraigosa’s wish to avoid a long period between Bratton’s departure and the selection of the next chief.

Of the 13 candidates interviewed, 11 were from inside the LAPD. With the mayor, Bratton and others expressing publicly their inclination to hire from within, it is widely expected that neither of the two unnamed outsiders who made the interview stage will advance as a finalist. The department’s assistant chiefs, Jim McDonnell, Earl Paysinger, and Sharon Papa, and Deputy Chief Charlie Beck are considered front-runners by many LAPD watchers.

-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters downtown 

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