Okay, so we were all geared up, popcorn in hand, waiting for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to announce his selection for Chief of Police on Monday. We were primed. We were deliriously anticipatory. We had paper streamers and noisemakers and were entirely prepared to whoop and holler supportively for whichever of the three he named: Charlie Beck or Jim McDonnell or Michel Moore.
Furthermore, we really, really felt we knew who it was going to be. We’d done our reconnaissance flights, read the I Ching, laid out the Tarot, swirled some tea leaves, thrown some bones. We figured our analysis was a Las Vegas oddsmaker’s sure thing. And we surmised that the decision had likely been locked and loaded for a while—even though the mayor made a big To-Do about calling everyone back for interviews on Sunday, and everything.
But, whatever. We liked each of the candidates a lot and were going to be happy whichever way it went.
Then came the word that, no, there wasn’t going to be a Monday announcement after all. The clay was still wet, the cake hadn’t risen, the pot hadn’t boiled, the stone had yet to be carved.
The mayor was still thinking.
The selection was now to be made public on Tuesday.
What’s this?! Tuesday? Was it really possible that AV was still undecided?
We were confused.
Then we talked to persons with cooler heads than our own (who also happened to be in something of a position to know). And they laid it out succinctly.
The mayor is not dithering. This isn’t indecision, or extended contemplation. It is stage management.
In part, Antonio is milking the moment. But the delay is more than that. AV is making it clear that it is he who is making this decision. Not the police commission. Not Bill Bratton. Not….fill in the blank with any number of prominent names who have been energetically lobbying behind the scenes for this candidate or that one.
Moreover, by delaying a day, Antonio is flashing a message in neon letters to the chief-to-be, that it is to the mayor—not anyone else—that the new head of the LAPD will owe his job.
Yeah, it’s a power play, with a liberal sprinkling of narcissism thrown in.
On the other hand, he who takes the credit also gets the blame if things go wrong. And, with the plethora of challenges presented by the present economy (double-digit unemployment, a sinking city budget, shredded social safety nets, looming prisoner release) a hell of a lot could go wrong under any chief. So, if Antonio is gambling a pile of political capital on the bet that he and the new C.O.P. will be able to continue to make things go right in the post-Bratton realm of protect and serve, one cannot honestly say that is a bad thing.
It’s even, kind of, you know, leader-ish.
Okay, then, see you Tuesday. Same time, same place, same noisemakers. New popcorn.