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Who will be L.A.'s next police chief? City hires headhunter firm to lead search

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 7, 2024:New LAPD interim Chief Dominic H. Choi shakes hands with Mayor Karen Bass after being named to the position at City Hall on February 7, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
LAPD interim Chief Dominic H. Choi shakes hands with Mayor Karen Bass after he was named to the position at City Hall on Feb. 7. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

To hire the city's next top cop, Los Angeles officials have turned to the same firm that helped pick former LAPD Chief William J. Bratton more than two decades ago.

The city finalized a deal with the Northern California-based headhunter Bob Murray & Associates on March 1, but didn't announce the decision until Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners.

The firm will be paid $65,000 to come up with a list of 10 to 20 candidates to lead the LAPD.

The search process will include conducting a community survey on the chief's job, running social media ads to woo potential applicants, and checking the finalists' credit histories, according to the firm's contract with the city's personnel department.

The goal is to replace Michel Moore, who unexpectedly announced his retirement in January after 5½ years as chief. Last month, the Police Commission appointed Assistant Chief Dominic Choi to take over on an interim basis.

In a presentation to the commission, Dana Brown, general manager of the personnel department, said the city decided on Bob Murray & Associates because of its more than 30 years of experience conducting law enforcement executive searches. Notably, Brown said, the company was involved in the selection of Bratton, the big-talking East Coaster who was tapped to lead the LAPD in 2002 after he helped oversee the department’s compliance with a federal consent decree.

Read more: LAPD can’t get rid of their bad cops. Here’s what they want to do about it

Brown told the commission Tuesday that the city's charter calls for "an open competitive process."

"Our recruitment seeks to leave no stone unturned," she said.

She did not discuss which other search firms were considered. The contract with Bob Murray & Associates notes the firm's experience, with more than 200 searches for police chiefs and assistant chiefs, including current hunts in California for top executives in Petaluma, Santa Ana and Palos Verdes Estates. The city of San Diego also recently hired the firm, based in Roseville outside Sacramento, to find its next fire chief.

Officials from the search firm and the city personnel department are still ironing out certain details, such as which questions will be asked of Los Angeles residents on an online survey that will be translated into several languages. The results will be used to help develop criteria for judging candidates.

A brochure outlining the nuts and bolts of the job — responsibilities, desired qualifications and pay — is expected to be released next month, after which the firm will start advertising the position on various law enforcement websites, including with organizations for Latino, Black and women peace officers.

After a monthlong vetting process, the firm expects to cement a pool of candidates by June 7 and conduct preliminary interviews the following week, before providing a list of at least six names to the personnel department. The Police Commission will select three finalists for Mayor Karen Bass to consider. If the mayor is unsatisfied with the choices, she can ask the commission to continue its work.

Brown said she expects background checks on the three finalists to be done in mid-July, and that if all goes as planned, the mayor will conduct her final interviews in early August.

After Brown's presentation, Commissioner Fabian Garcia asked her to ensure input from Angelenos who don't have access to the Internet or are otherwise underserved.

Commission President Erroll Southers questioned whether the firm's "very aggressive timeline" provided enough time to gather community feedback.

Brown responded by citing "success in the past" with similar timetables in executive searches.

Bass' nominee for chief will have to be confirmed by the City Council. Another powerful voice in the decision will be the two unions representing the department’s rank-and-file and command staffs.

Two people thought to be early front-runners come from the senior staff ranks: Assistant Chief Blake Chow and Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides. Another is an outsider, Art Acevedo, a former California Highway Patrol executive who has run big-city police departments in Austin and Houston in Texas and, briefly, Miami.

Read more: As the city searches for a new LAPD chief, lack of women leaders becomes more apparent

Several other senior officials who have been discussed as possible candidates talked to The Times about their plans. Deputy Chief Michael Rimkunas, who runs the professional standards bureau, said he doesn't currently intend to compete for the position, but hasn't ruled it out completely. Another deputy chief, Donald Graham, said he would apply.

Bass has been noncommittal when asked which qualities she wants in a new chief, and hasn't hinted whether she favors hiring from within or opting for an experienced outsider who could take the department in another direction.

Prognosticators have speculated Bass might want to make a splash by hiring the city's first woman or Latino chief. For her part, Bass previously told The Times that she wants the search process to play out before making a decision, but added that she "absolutely" believes L.A. is "ready for its first woman chief."

At Tuesday's Police Commission meeting, Commissioner Rasha Shields stressed that the search was wide open and would focus on attracting the best candidates possible, without any emphasis on gender or race.

"We want the broadest list of candidates available," she said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.