Before Los Angeles gets a new police chief, here’s what we need to know

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Before Los Angeles gets a new police chief, here’s what we need to know

Op-ed, LA Politics

Connie Rice

February 15, 2024

The next chief of the Los Angeles Police Department will have to be a wizard. But he or she is unlikely to get what a turnaround chief needs on day one: a PET scan of the LAPD’s serious problems.

The city’s Police Commission has selected 28-year LAPD veteran Dominic Choi to take over when Chief Michel Moore retires at the end of February. As several LAPD experts have noted, Choi is an insider in the current administration and an ally of Moore. He’s more likely to maintain the LAPD’s tortured status quo than to survey its inner turmoil.

This means Mayor Karen Bass is unlikely to see a competent assessment of the biggest challenges facing a new permanent chief, which will only make it more difficult for her to tap the right candidate.

For more than 35 years as a civil rights attorney, I have sued, investigated, worked with, and observed the LAPD. After dealing with nine LAPD chiefs, dozens of command staff and officers, more than thirty commission members, four inspectors general, and six Los Angeles mayors, I’ve seen the best of the department and the worst.

I wish I could say the LAPD was on the right track in 2024. I can not.

As this newspaper has documented, the department has been beset by misconduct and leadership scandals in recent years, following its inadequate response to the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests, awarding civilian awards for police abuses, and accusations of sexism and misogyny through the ranks and in promotions, to recent claims of theft and other corruption among gang unit officers.

Many officers have described problems to me, including ‘kill the messenger’ management that destroys bad news, as well as dangerous lapses in oversight, diluted policing standards and gaps in police knowledge.

Just as serious as this


There is another serious issue that goes to the heart of public trust. Numerous black officers allege that current LAPD leadership has repeatedly failed to defuse a resurgence of anti-black racism in the ranks. As an African American veteran with

over 22 years as



in department

summarized it for me in 2023:

We’ve gone back to where it was after Rodney King, raunchy and hostile. Black officers feel unsafe. I’ve heard racist comments like, we should do like we used to and get the K-9s sick on it. But it’s even worse now because it’s not just the white MAGA guys; there is a fraction of it

anti-black anti-black

Latino officers too.


if provisional,

studies by independent researchers


suggest that this position requires


A 2022 “work climate” survey conducted by the UCLA Anderson School of Management for all city agencies found that Black and Asian employees at the LAPD, and those with liberal political attitudes, reported “relatively negative” assessments of their workplace . The researchers tell me that in focus groups and interviews, black officers cited a racially hostile work climate that exposed them to questions about their loyalty, challenges to their authority, and even expressions of racial hatred. Worse than the racist transgressions was the refusal of their supervisors and top LAPD leaders to address their plight because it would damage morale.

In 2020, the Hydra Foundation, an international advisory group of first responders, assessed racial attitudes in a specialized LAPD department. It found officers’ answers “shockingly defensive” and “dismissive” and noted that there was “an unhealthy antagonism” to questions related to systemic or implicit bias. The consultants concluded that there was “an urgent need for education about various forms of racism” and recommended hiring experts who know how to overcome binary racial thinking.

That same year, a study by the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, which represents Black, found


Most members surveyed said they had seen anti-Black and anti-Black Lives Matter comments from colleagues on the LAPD’s social media, including jokes about the police killing of George Floyd. Officers reported that the department’s response was to hold small dialogue sessions that an assistant chief ordered to exclude race because it was too divisive and would damage morale.

The LAPD is not alone in its failure to counter rising prejudice within its ranks. In 2022, the California State Auditor found evidence of officer bias and hate speech against people of color, immigrants, women and the LGBTQ+ community at five other urban law enforcement agencies in California. The auditor concluded that state law enforcement agencies do not have sufficient safeguards against such attitudes and are unable to investigate or address them.

I interact with numerous LAPD officers. In my experience, the vast majority of Los Angeles police do not share this toxic attitude. What is needed is leadership that is prepared to expertly deal with the corrosive facts that do.

Mayor Bas

and the Police Commission must appoint a permanent LAPD chief who will have the courage, strategic knowledge and intra-human IQ to eliminate bias from the department and build a culture of safety and dignity for all officers. Instead of a status quo transition at the LAPD, the city needs an analysis of the police department’s deepest flaws so the information can inform the selection of the next chief.

Make no mistake: Today’s LAPD is not your grandfather’s police department. It improved in the wake of the Christopher Commission investigation into the 1992 civil unrest and made significant progress during the federal consent decree imposed after the corruption scandal between the Rampart gang units and led by heads William J. Bratton and Charlie Beck.

But 33 years after the defeat of Rodney King, the LAPD is not where it should be. Let’s hope a new chef can do better.

Attorney Connie Rice, a member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, led the blue ribbon panel that reviewed the LAPD’s response to the Rampart scandal.


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