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UCLA faculty discuss role of diversity in choosing new police chief

Pictured is an LAPD police car. UCLA faculty discussed the process of selecting a new police chief. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Leyton Breese

Feb. 8, 2024 10:06 p.m.

Experts said the topics of police reform and diversity will be key in selecting a new police chief, as current LAPD Chief Michael Moore steps down at the end of February and Dominic Choi begins his term as interim chief March 1.

Moore‘s retirement was announced Jan. 12. He served for six years spanning the COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s response to the murder of George Floyd.

Moore has steered the LAPD in a more community-oriented direction, said Jorja Leap, an adjunct professor of social welfare at UCLA.

“Chief Moore was a 40-year veteran of the LAPD, and he represents a transitional figure between the old LAPD and the new,” Leap said.

Moore assumed office in a very tumultuous time, both locally and nationally, said Zev Yaroslavsky, the director of the Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Los Angeles Initiative. Yaroslavsky, a former member of the LA City Council and LA County Board of Supervisors, added that Moore addressed community relations between the LAPD and communities of color.

“I think he’s tried to reach out to communities that have traditionally not been at the table with the LAPD historically,” Yaroslavsky said. “Over decades, I think he’s tried to be accessible to all the stakeholders in our community when it comes to law enforcement and community relations.”

LA Mayor Karen Bass worked with the LA Police Commission to appoint Choi as interim chief while the search for a permanent chief continues.

“The Police Commission is confident he is uniquely qualified to steward the department into its next chapter and will lead the men and women of the LAPD until a permanent Chief of Police is selected,” the LA Board of Police Commissioners said in a press release.

Choi was unanimously appointed Wednesday and will be the first Asian American to step into the role.

[Related: Dominic Choi receives appointment to serve as interim chief of LAPD]

Leap said it is very important for Bass’ office to primarily conduct the search for a new chief itself rather than hire outside consultants.

“She is someone who really understands the needs of Los Angeles and what we need in our next chief of police,” Leap said. “She has great people in the mayor’s office, and they really need to be in charge of this national search.”

Yaroslavsky said the Police Commission will provide three nominations for a new LAPD chief to Bass, from which she will select a new chief. He said the mayor plays a significant role in this process, even during the commission’s deliberation.

“If the mayor has an idea of, ‘I want a reformer, I want a woman, I want a person of color, I want somebody younger, I want somebody older,’ … she will make that clear to the police commission so that that will … help expedite the process,” Yaroslavsky said.

Bass has been a long-term advocate for police reform, said Jim Newton, a lecturer of public policy at UCLA.

Newton said a significant consideration for Bass is selecting the first woman and/or Latino candidate for the chief position.

Newton said there are many people who have been waiting to have a police chief from an underrepresented background.

Newton said keeping the city safe is the fundamental obligation of any mayor and that Bass will be looking for a chief who has a crime-fighting strategy. He added that crime has been mixed in LA in recent years.

Bass said in a press statement that Moore will assist the interim chief as a consultant following his departure.

Leap said the LAPD is facing a question of its identity.

“Are they going to insist on doing everything themselves? Or are they going to accept that they need to partner with the community in authentic ways?” Leap said. “That’s a hard choice, and that’s what a chief has got to do.”

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Leyton Breese
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