Selection of New Police Chief

By: 
Stephen Downing

Chief Luna Retires

On Sept. 9 City Manager Tom Modica announced that Chief of Police Robert Luna would retire in December 2021. Two days later – in an opinion piece the Beachcomber published a list of “asks” suggesting a process by which the new chief should be selected.

The “asks” were contained in an article entitled “Seeding the Thistle Patch at City Hall. It can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/seeding-thistle-patch-city-hall.

On Oct. 8, Joe Ambrosini, director of human resources, Department of Human Resources for the city issued a press release headlined: “City Manager Announces Recruitment Process for Police Chief” with the sub-headline: “City to Launch Community Survey to Inform Selection Process.”

The Beachcomber published the content of that announcement and reported upon 10 questions posed to the city manager designed to fill in the blanks related to the announcement.

The city manager declined to respond to any of the questions.

That Beachcomber article can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/will-city-find-best-police-chief-possible.

 

City Seeks Community Feedback

On Oct. 22 the city announced that it is seeking feedback from the community in the selection of a new chief by means of a public survey, stating:

“The survey is available now online and hard-copy format at all Long Beach Public Library branches (except Alamitos Neighborhood Library, which is temporarily closed for repairs), and will be available through Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021,” giving the community 16 days to compete the questionnaire.

The announcement repeated or linked information related to the recruitment, screening and selection process without addressing any of the “Asks” posed by the Beachcomber or answering any of the 11 follow-up questions reported in the Oct. 8 article.

The Survey

The survey asks the participant to select 5 of 13 “leadership qualities that you think are important in selecting the next Long Beach Chief of Police and 5 of 16

“Qualifications that you think are important…”

A blank fill in box is provided in case none of the checkbox items meet the participant’s expectations.

The survey then presents four questions that address “what efforts currently underway would you like to see continued”… “What new initiatives or areas of focus you think need to be addressed”… Is there anything the city should consider when selecting the next chief”… What would you like potential candidates to know about our community?”

There is also a box to let the city know if “there is anything else you would like to add that was not captured in the questions above?”

That section is followed by four questions that ask how long the survey participant has lived in Long Beach, their age, gender and race.

In My Opinion

The survey – absent any kind of community listening session(s) held by a board of community members who are part of the selection process – is amateurish.

Its only value will be to dress up the public relations sparkle needed to herald the city hall announcement when a new chief is selected.

The selection process – as announced – provides every reason to believe that the selection of our next chief of police will be based upon the continuing interests of the city hall bureaucracy and the LBPOA rather than the needs of the greater Long Beach community and the cultural changes required within the LBPD organization in order to meet those needs.

We Need to Address the Problems

The ongoing national dialogue – especially those conversations that began with the police-murder of George Floyd – requires a critical examination of policing practices in most all cities, including Long Beach.

Our next chief of police can play a pivotal role in this conversation if he or she is able to lead the LBPD out of its unproductive, retaliation-prone, non-transparent, crony-oriented cultural allegiance to a status quo that is coveted and financed by the LBPOA and supported by those who believe their economic and political futures depend upon that financing.

Long Beach needs a visionary chief who is never content with the status quo and can bring to the LBPD a continuous improvement mindset for influencing change in an organizational culture that strives to meet changing societal and cultural expectations – as opposed to kneeling to an endless string of short term “Recovery Plans” invented by the political class in order to satiate their public image needs of the moment.

This level of management competence requires a proven leader with a fresh set of experienced eyes that can see the truth, a mind that can set a new course, an honest soul and a courageous and compassionate heart that can lead and inspire the rank and file to adapt to the public safety expectations – and the partnership necessities – of our diverse community.

In order to accomplish all that the candidate must be an approachable, professional builder of transparent relationships who is experienced in implementing cultural change within a police organization and working with diverse communities to solve difficult problems.

This requires, at minimum, a chief:

  • Who has demonstrated the ability to create, build and nurture a diverse organizational culture grounded in core values that weed out the unfit and promotes and rewards integrity, quality of service and respect for people.
  • Who possesses the intellectual and experienced commitment to an organizational work ethic based upon goals that measure police effectiveness by the absence of crime and disorder rather than the quantity of arrests, citations and search and arrest warrants executed.
  • Who has demonstrated past commitment to an organizational ethic able to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives that delivers high morale and effective – sustained – community policing.
  • Who possesses a sophisticated understanding surrounding the development and implementation of sound policies and procedures, including the value of community input, transparency and effective disciplinary systems.
  • Who is an impressive speaker, writer and proactive and transparent communicator that can be attentive to internal as well as external information needs.
  • Who demonstrates a deep and practiced understanding of the social aspects of policing.
  • Who can articulate and deliver best practices and contemporary approaches to critical incidents appropriate for a diverse community.
  • Who has executive level experience using data to detect implicit and/or explicit bias in Department policies and procedures.
  • Who has command experience dealing with quality-of-life issues and progressive crime prevention strategies.
  • Who can bring to the department a leadership history of innovative problem solving enhanced by the ability to foster creativity in others.
  • Who has ability to audit, measure and apply empirical data and anecdotal information that promotes understanding of a diverse community in order to better comprehend how new policing models and practices can improve the police response to people in crisis.
  • Who has a proven track record of working with diverse groups and individuals, resulting in constructive compromise and resolution.
  • Who has a history of promoting and preserving productive partnerships with other criminal justice entities, social justice groups and mental health professionals.
  • Who has experience implementing improved police responses to those experiencing mental health-related crises, including conflict resolution, welfare checks, substance abuse, and suicide threats.

The second largest municipal police organization in Los Angeles County providing police services to the 7th largest city in the State of California needs and deserves all of that – and more – in a new chief of police.

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

 

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Comments

Am sure that a corrupt organization like the LBPD, LBPOA, City Manager and the rest of the city will pick the person who will commit to a continuing practice of hiding and not holding corrupt officer accountable. We the citizen need to appoint/vote for a new COP not let a corrupt system pick the COP for us. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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