WILLIE WILLIAMS, the police commissioner of Philadelphia who will become Los Angeles' first black police chief will also be the first chief in more than 40 years to come from outside this city's 8,300 officer department.
The appointment was announced yesterday. Williams had been one of six finalists in the search to replace Chief Daryl Gates when he is expected to step down in June. Mr. Williams has a reputation for being tough on maverick police officers and as an innovator in community-based policing, a concept begun in Los Angeles that puts officers in the community where they interact more directly with citizens.
Williams, who is president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, has been chief of Philadelphia's 6,300-officer department since 1988. He gained a reputation there as a top supporter of so-called "storefront mini-stations" where local volunteers and police officers work together in fighting crime. He also built a record of strict discipline with abusive officers.
Local moves to replace Chief Gates began following release of a widely shown videotape showing white police officers beating black motorist Rodney King on Mar. 3, 1991.
Several observers have noted that Williams's main task will be to revive police department morale which has suffered because of the King incident and several related lawsuits.
Though Gates has repeatedly said he will step down in June, experts say a legal imbroglio could ensue should he change his mind. Named as chief in 1978, Gates announced an April retirement when the investigating commission, led by former Assistant Secretary of State Warren Christopher, recommended several reforms. However, he subsequently withdrew his exit date. Though Gates told reporters, "I like Willie," he also showed contempt for the commission's choice of a successor outside the department. "It's d ifficult to understand why we need to go to someone from the outside," he said.