Will the City Find the Best Police Chief Possible?

Stephen Downing

Announcement Offers Doubt

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” directed to Modica.

The “asks” suggested a fair and equitable process of recruiting, screening and selecting the next chief of police that involved community surveys, listening sessions and a process that involved elected officials and the Long Beach community via periodic announcements.

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.

The Announcement

Friday, 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 content of the announcement included the following:

“The city manager plans to conduct a recruitment process that will allow for well-qualified candidates both internally and externally. Eligibility will include: all current and former LBPD personnel holding the rank of commander and above; and chiefs and assistant/deputy chiefs from other jurisdictions, with a strong preference for those who have experience working in California. A job brochure has been published with more details.

“I’m looking forward to selecting a new chief who will take our Police Department to the next level, meeting the public safety needs of our diverse community and embracing transparency, modern policing and community partnership,” Modica said. “We have a strong internal talent pool, and as a major California city, I’m sure we will get interest from leaders with major credentials from across the state and country.”

The city will also be inviting the Long Beach community to tell the city manager what they want to see in their next police chief. During the week of Oct. 11, the city will ask the community to take part in a survey, available online and in hard-copy format at Long Beach Public Library branches. Further details will be announced upon the launch of the survey. Survey responses will help guide the city’s selection process of the new police chief.

The recruitment process is expected to be finalized by December and a new police chief announced prior to the beginning of the new year. Candidates will undergo a multi-step screening and interview process with human resources, a community panel, a technical panel, City department directors and ultimate selection by the city manager.”

Questions We Asked

In order to provide the Long Beach community with more depth to the announcement and the content of the linked job brochure, the Beachcomber sent an email to City Manager Tom Modica’s media representative, Kevin Lee, and posed ten questions. The content of that email follows here:

“The Beachcomber would like to clarify several elements related to the announced recruitment and selection process for the next chief of police.

1. In his announcement the city manager states: “I’m sure the we will get interest from leaders with major credentials from across the state and country.” Yet the job brochure excludes candidates from outside the state unless they have a current (California State) POST certificate and a POST management or executive certificate. Why is this a requirement when the law allows a new chief from outside the state to “obtain the POST Basic Certificate within two years of appointment”?

2. Does the city manager intend to conduct a nationwide search for the next chief of police? If yes, what method of recruitment will be used? If no, why not?

3. The city manager allows persons that hold the rank of commander in the LBPD to apply; yet he excludes those holding the rank of commander in other jurisdictions. The rank of commander in Long Beach is equivalent to the rank of captain (middle management) in most police and sheriff departments and those that hold that rank in outside police departments are certainly more qualified due to their upper (staff officer) management experience and job description. Why did the city exclude commander candidates from other cities and allow Long Beach commanders to apply?

4. Should Chief Luna’s retirement become official prior to the selection of a new chief, who has the city manager selected to be the interim chief of police? Also, while Luna runs his time prior to his official retirement will an acting chief of police be designated and if so, will the acting chief be allowed to compete for the chief of police position?

5. In the screening process how will the community panel be selected how many community members will comprise the panel and will they be involved in conducting candidate interviews or merely reviewing applications? Will a public announcement accompany their appointment?

6. What is the function of the “technical panel” involved in the screening? Who comprises the technical panel? Do they interview the candidates?

7. Why are other city directors involved in the selection process and who are they?

8. Why is there no use in the “ideal candidate” portion of the employment opportunity bulletin of the words: “integrity,” “problem solving,” “developing measures of effectiveness”, or risk management?”

9. At any point during the selection process will the city manager establish a preliminary list of finalists and consult with the City Council? If yes, how large will the list be? If no, why not?

10. Will the city manager publicly announce a list of final candidates in order to judge community reaction prior to making the final selection? If yes, how large will the finalist list be? If no, why not?”

The Response

As a usual practice the Beachcomber informed Lee of our deadline, which in this case was established “by end of business on Friday, Oct. 15.”

Although Lee was provided a full 7calendar days to answer, the Beachcomber received a reply within ten minutes from the city manager himself.

Modica replied: “Thank you Mr. Downing, all of the details on the recruitment that are available at this time can be found in the press release and the brochure. Beyond that we do not have any further details or comments to share.”

This is a developing story. If more details are provided by the city the Beachcomber will provide follow-ups to this article.


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




Translation of Modica’s statement:

The LBPOA has selected the next Chief of Police. The “search” and public input are just for appearances; y’all don’t need to worry your pretty little heads about this.

Why would we expect a corrupt government like LBC has, to do the right thing for the people. Incompetent COP Luna destroyed the PD and the trust of the citizen and now he leaves with no accountability and a 200K retirement. SMH. The new COP has already been selected by the LBPOA all this is just being done for show LOL, jokes is on us tax payers.

FINALLY! THIS IS IT! IT’S NOW OR NEVER! Say it any way you wish but recognize its simple TRUTH! Long Beach’s long awaited deliverance from its rule by treacherous, mercenary, unethical government officials has come! In simple terms EACH AND EVERY LONG BEACH CITIZEN WHO CARES must rise up forcefully, and UNEQUIVOCALLY OBJECT to Tom Modica’s nefarious attempt to totally undermine Long Beach’s Recruitment Process For Police Chief...because it’s truly mislabeled...read honestly it’s blatent call to the unprincipled and racketeering prone! It should read HERE’S YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO FEED AT LONG BEACH’S TAX PAYERS TROW!

Each Concerned Citizen and every Long Beach Neighborhood Association, Civic group, and Club must LOUDLY DEMAND by phone, Email, Text and Letters and GRAFFITI, that the Beachcomber’s Stephan Downing’s list of TEN ASKS be ANSWERED Immediacy, totally and comprehensively by the City Manager!

His published response to that request is a smug insult to every Long Beach Tax Paying Citizen and Business!

If Long Beach’s citizenry accepts his response it it will effectively be handing the keys to the City and it’s finances to the profiteering mob at city hall!
Take responsibility! Don’t hesitate, IT WON” T HAPPEN IF YOU ACT!
It truly is now or never...

Long Beach needs to appoint former Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Stephen Downing as its next Chief. He will be by far THE most qualified person. And the two primary reasons he should be appointed to the job are; first, he probably doesn't want the job and second, there would be nobody more feared by the Long Beach Police Union.

I agree!! I second that motion.

I agree and second this motion! But in the event that Chief Downing is unwilling or unable, PLEASE KEEP THE NOMINATIONS COMING!!!
The man or woman need only be HONEST, have COURAGE and INTEGRITY! Even an IMPERFECT candidate would be a WIN for Long Beach! The ball is rolling! TURN IT INTO A LANDSLIDE! FLOOD THE CITIZENRY WITH NAMES TO CONSIDER! Encourage every Citizen to recognize how much SKIN he or she has in the game! MAKE LONG BEACH THE WONDERFUL CITY IT CAN BE!

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