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Venegas meets the press in Sacramento

IN 1997, the Police Commission was leaning toward Venegas

The Los Angeles Police Commission, which is now headed by a Edith Perez, has picked Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas Jr. as one of the three finalists for LAPD Chief.

Officer talks about Sacramento Police Chief


"Critics say he [Venegas] came in with a racial agenda and made enemies right away."

Gordon Tokumatsu reporter.

"He [Venegas] fired or released his entire management staff - all who were white and over 40 - and all who were very popular"

Sacramento Police Officer

KNBC TV Channel 4 report - July 29, 1997

It isn't racial, officer, it's RECONQUISTA


L.A. Times - July 28, 1997

The search for Los Angeles' next police chief was narrowed to three finalists Monday with the city Police Commission announcing that it has ranked Deputy Chief Bernard Parks, a longtime department insider, as the panel's top choice.  Parks, a 32-year department veteran who is believed to be the candidate favored by Mayor Richard Riordan, was ranked ahead of his LAPD colleague, Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker, and an outside candidate, Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas Jr.     

 "On balance, the commission collectively believes that Chief Parks brings a leadership quality that a great majority of the commissioners felt was most appropriate," said commission President Raymond C. Fisher. "The other two candidates remaining also have strong qualities, and that's why they are also on the list."      

The commission's list of finalists was sent to Riordan, who is responsible for deciding which candidate will lead the department into the 21st century.  "I think it's an excellent list," Riordan said Monday as he lunched with a group of business people at Langer's delicatessen across from MacArthur Park.  Riordan said he plans to interview the candidates this week and make his selection--which must be approved by the City Council--by the middle of next week. As part of his review, the mayor said, he will spend "quality time" with each candidate, probably walking around his Brentwood neighborhood with them, then invite City Council President John Ferraro and Councilwoman Laura Chick--who heads the Public Safety Committee--to join him for formal interviews with each of the three.

Parks, whom Riordan unsuccessfully endorsed for the post of interim chief as the nationwide search to replace former Chief Willie L. Williams was conducted, is seen as the odds-on favorite to win the job."People read my mind," Riordan said, attempting to dismiss the speculation that Parks is a sure bet to get the job. "It's not a done deal."  Some department observers, however, say it would be politically difficult for Riordan, after supporting Parks for the interim post, to turn his back on the deputy chief, particularly after the commissioners have now tapped him as their top pick. If selected, Parks would be the second African American to head the 12,000-employee department. Williams, who remained popular with city residents while his leadership deficiencies frustrated city and department officials, was the first.      

"It would be a horrendous slap in the face to the minority communities if he didn't pick Parks, but it could happen," said one top LAPD official. "Chief Parks would clearly be the favorite going in at this point," Councilman Mike Feuer said. "If Parks were to be selected, there would be support for him on the City Council--and I think there would be enthusiasm behind that support."      

Despite the backing for Parks, the other two finalists are considered viable options for the mayor. Kroeker, who is white, is an overwhelming favorite among the department's rank and file and has strong support within the community; and, Venegas, an outsider with a solid reputation on community policing, would be the first Latino to head the LAPD if selected.      

The five-member Police Commission, which conducted 90-minute interviews with each of the six semifinalists for the job last week, reached its final decision Monday after about two hours of deliberations in closed session. In addition to the three finalists, the panel considered the applications of LAPD Deputy Chief David Gascon, LAPD Cmdr. Art Lopez and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Chief Lee D. Baca Four commissioners voted to rank Parks as the top choice and Kroeker second. Commissioner Herbert F. Boeckmann II cast his top vote for Kroeker and second for Parks. The panel unanimously selected Venegas as the third finalist.      "It was a good, deliberative process," Fisher said.

 By picking two LAPD insiders to top their list, the commissioners seemed to signal their reluctance to hand the department's reins to a second outsider, falling back on a decades-old tradition of selecting officers who had risen through the LAPD ranks to take the helm.

Throughout his tenure, former Chief Williams--the first non-LAPD insider to lead the department in more than four decades--was never fully accepted or respected by members of the rank and file. The Police Commission denied him a second five-year term of office last March, citing--among other things--his ineffective leadership and inability to inspire the troops.      

The new chief will assume control of a department that continues to face criticism from some for the slow pace of reforms recommended by the Christopher Commission in the wake of the beating of Rodney G. King and a lack of progress in combating sexual harassment, gender bias and racial discrimination within its ranks.  Furthermore, the new chief will probably be pressured to broaden the department's community policing efforts while continuing to crack down on crime.      

Riordan's task will be to decide which candidate is best suited to address those issues. Because of a 1992 change in the City Charter, the mayor, instead of the commission, makes the final selection.      

Parks, who was the second-highest-rated candidate after Williams in 1992, is known as a tireless worker, a strict disciplinarian and a hands-on manager who is a stickler for details. Parks, 53, had a turbulent five years during Williams' term as chief, getting promoted to assistant chief and then demoted back to deputy chief when Williams became dissatisfied with the job he was doing.      

Under Interim Chief Bayan Lewis, Parks is heading the department's Office of Operations, which is responsible for overseeing 85% of the organization's day-to-day operations. He also is spearheading an LAPD project based on a successful New York City police program that uses up-to-the-minute computer statistics to identify community problems and to better deploy police resources. It is an undertaking the mayor has embraced.      

Parks said he is confident about his chances, but made no predictions.  "I feel very good and very pleased that we are getting close to a decision," he said. "I feel good about my performance so far . . . [but] it's a very live and evolving process."     

 Kroeker, 53, said he was honored to be among the finalists but disappointed he was not No. 1 on the list.  "I'm a competitor, and you always want to be the best. . . . But I'm very pleased that someone from inside this organization emerged in that [top] position," said Kroeker, adding that he has not given up hope.      

"The mayor has full access to all those names, and in the end I have full confidence that I will remain optimistic that he will select me," he said, at a news conference he called outside Parker Center.      Kroeker, who like Parks has 32 years with the LAPD, is a gregarious department command officer who was the rank and file's overwhelming choice in a poll taken several months ago. He is also popular among many city residents, particularly in the South and Valley bureaus where he has commanded. Recently, he became head of the Office of Administrative Services, which is responsible for the department's long-term and strategic planning.      

Venegas, who became Sacramento police chief in 1993 after more than 20 years as an officer, lieutenant and deputy chief in Fresno, has made his mark in the capital city by instituting community policing, focusing his officers on specific neighborhoods to reduce crime. Venegas, 48, has won major grants from the federal government to promote community policing, including $17 million earlier this month.  Venegas continued Monday to refuse to discuss his candidacy publicly, instead issuing a brief statement.   "I am honored to have been chosen . . . as one of three finalists for the chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department. . . . I look forward to the final interviews and ultimately, the announcement of who will be asked to lead the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department," he said in the statement.      

Most city and LAPD officials consider Venegas to be a tremendous longshot. Riordan has not yet met Venegas. A hint that the outsider's chances are slim came at Langer's, when the mayor referred to Venegas' home as Salt Lake City--where another candidate hailed from--rather than Sacramento.      

Reaction to the commission's announcement was mixed, with some hailing the ranking of Parks as the top candidate and others expressing disappointment.      "We believe we can work successfully with whomever the mayor decides to select as the next chief of police," said Ted Hunt, secretary of the city's police union. "I would imagine that most of our membership is a little sad, because 75% of them did want and so expressed that they wanted Kroeker."      

Ruben Padilla, president of the Latin American Law Enforcement Assn., said he is extremely disappointed that the Police Commission overlooked Gascon and Lopez, both Latinos who are members of the organization.  "Gascon and Lopez have tremendous ties to the community and to the officers," Padilla said. "I'm very disappointed. We would have much rather seen Lopez or Gascon."      "It looks to me like a Latino insider never had a chance," said Alan Clayton, a director of the Los Angeles County Chicano Employees Assn. "I'm very disappointed that two Latinos [from inside the LAPD] did not make it to the top three. I'm shocked."      

All three semifinalists who were not selected said Monday that they were honored to have been considered for the job and believe that the position is almost certain to go to a department insider. "No one believes Venegas has a realistic chance," Baca said. "I think it's down to the top two on the list."      Gascon said: "I hope and expect the next chief to be from the inside."     Lopez, meanwhile, had his mind on the future.      "Hey, better luck next time," Lopez, 47, said about himself.      "I feel like Cinderella," added the commander. "I got to go to the ball and dance. Maybe I didn't get to keep the glass slipper, but I got to dance."      Times staff writers Beth Shuster and Dan Morain contributed to this story.       *

* *      


*** Bernard Parks, LAPD deputy chief     

 * The front-runner, a 32-year LAPD veteran, is seen as a hands-on manager, a disciplinarian and a savvy political insider.

* * * Mark A. Kroeker, LAPD deputy chief      

* A strong candidate who also joined the LAPD 32 years ago; has a knack for public outreach and is choice of rank-and-file officers.

* * *  Arturo Venegas Jr., Sacramento chief      

* An extreme longshot, the four-year capital city chief is an advocate of community policing.