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Sergio Diaz: A New Hat in the Race for LAPD Chief

August 26th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

sergio-diaz-press-conference

Up until today, there were four names tossed around by nearly everyone
as most likely to be on the short list to follow Bill Bratton as LAPD Chief: The four are Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, Assistant Chief Sharon Papa and Deputy Chief Charlie Beck.

There are dark horse candidates too—like Deputy Chief Michael Moore and Deputy Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, plus some others.

But the four have been the candidates on whom the public and private handicapping has focused with the most vigor.

It has also been widely agreed that no one of the four is the odds on front runner.

There is however, one more person whose name has also often come up as another possible candidate—but only in private, because it was it was always assumed he wouldn’t try for the position.

And that is Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz.

Diaz, as you may remember, is the well-respected Deputy Chief in charge of the department’s Central Bureau. He was the guy tapped by Bratton to take over and fix things at Central—and also, to be honest, to help smooth matters with LA’s Hispanic community— after the May 1, 2007 debacle at MacArthur Park suggested that great deal needed fixing and smoothing on both those fronts. (I wrote about his appointment here for the LA Times, and here for WLA.)

Yet people simply assumed that Diaz would stay out of the race when Bratton left, primarily for one very large reason. Sergio has been best friends since childhood with George Gascon. And everyone knew that Gascon definitely wanted to be chief. Of the two friends, Gascon had long had first dibs on the position, so to speak. And Sergio showed no overt sides of wanting it.

Up until this summer, in fact, Gascon was the one most thought actually had the best shot at succeeding Bratton. He’d been the Assistant Chief right under Bratton and, more recently, had served as Chief of Police for Mesa, Arizona—thereby theoretically positioning him even better for the jump to LA’s chief, in that he’d now run a department of his own.

Then, this past June, George accepted the job as San Francisco’s Chief of Police, clearly assuming that Bratton would serve out his term. But when Bratton made his surprise announcement last month, Gascon had no alternative but to declare himself out of the running.

The unexpected collateral consequence of Gascon opting out was that, all at once, in the eyes of many there seemed no good reason for his extremely capable friend Sergio not to throw his hat into the ring.

On Friday, Diaz flew to San Francisco for George Gascon’s swearing in ceremony, and it is assumed that the two men talked the matter over.

Monday, Sergio Diaz spoke to Chief Bratton and made it official.

And so it came to be that, as of this morning, there are—not four—but arguably five possible favorites for the position of Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It should be quite an intriguing race.

So stay tuned. There is lots more coverage—and handicapping—to come.

Posted in LAPD | 11 Comments »

11 Responses

  1. Janet Says:

    HELLLL NOOOOOO!!!! Sergio does not have the qualifications or experience to be Chief of LAPD. First of all he is known as the token latino (he’s Cuban) to settle down the illegals after the May 1st incident. Everyone on the dept. laughed about his appointment because he only got promoted on RACE. Sergio supports everyone but the legal citizens of this city. He wants everything changed to Spanish. But the most important RED FLAG to everyone is Sergio is very good friends with the Mayor. Both of them will make our city just like Maywood. The Mexican American born citizens are sick and tired of our American heritage being forgotten in this city. A lot of the rank and file don’t like Sergio.

  2. raymond Says:

    Your ad hominem attacks are childish and fueled by bigotry. I don’t know Mr. Diaz, but he hopefully has more class than you.

  3. WBC Says:

    For Janet to say Diaz shouldn’t be considered because he’s friends with the Mayor (never mind the “token Latino” stuff) is absurd — the Mayor and Chief of Police need a good working relationship, or else we have a Bradley-Gates, which arguably allowed the 92 riots to get as bad as they were. And Hahn-Parks became a pretty distracting battle for the city. Even Delgadillo-Chick did, as is Trutanich- Chick/ Greuel. The notion that we necessarily need to elect or appoint officials who oppose the Mayor and each other is a self-destructive one for the smooth functioning of the city.

    All of the candidates are very solid. Diaz’s only disadvantage would seem to be his relatively recent rise to Dep. Chief compared to some of the others. The fact that some Latinos are saying “It’s time for the first Latino Chief” especially as we’ve had a couple of African-American Chiefs (raising fears among the Janet/ Walter Moore crowd of two Latino officials in charge of public safety) should not be a deciding factor one way or the other. Any more than Paysinger being African-American should be held against him because “we’ve already met that quota.” I’ve seen comments around town trying to discredit him as a person that just seem nasty, and we may see more of that kind of thing against all the candidates. Ditto Sharon Papas being a woman: while it may be “time” for a woman, her duties are allegedly more on the administrative and financial side (very important too) than in commanding the streets like the others. However, budget issues are vital to balancing public safety with civic responsibility and that is not something which should be minimized as it sometimes is by those pushing other candidates.

    Frankly, I think most or all of them put the big picture above their own ethnicity or gender, Bratton’s enduring legacy. I look forward to more detail on all of them.

  4. Pink Underwear Salesman Says:

    I hope Sheriff Joe is being considered for the job of LAPD chief, I need to increase my sales in this down economy.

  5. Rob Thomas Says:

    It doesn’t bode well for the general economy when even the pink underwear is “down. Or maybe it does?

  6. Marc Cooper Says:

    You know I’m supporting Sergio.

  7. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Janet, You know I enjoy your comments. But this stuff you’re saying about Sergio Diaz isn’t even on the same planet as true.

    It’s just whacked. Honestly. Including the stuff about the rank and file. I don’t know who you’re talking to.

    Hey, Marc, I suspected as much.

  8. Janet Says:

    Sergio Diaz has only been a Deputy Chief for two years. That’s it, surely not enough time to understand the management of running an entire dept. To answer your question about rank and file this is exactly how they feel about Sergio. Sergio will come out as using his race to try and get the job. Many Latinos are sick of that excuse. Look at the city and how the Latino politicans have ruined it. Look at the miniority communities where people like Sergio in MacArthur Park and the Eastside turn a blind eye to the out of control illegal vendors. Expect much more of that with him.

  9. Richard Packard Says:

    As a former field deputy for the late councilman Ernani Bernardi, 7th CD (1990-93), I had the opportunity to work closely with the LAPD both with the rank-in-file officers and the upper brass. Coincidently my area designation in Bernardi’s office included the Lake View Terrace community (pre-Rodney King incident), I watched firsthand what happen when you don’t have the “right” leadership at LAPD. The Chief of Police sets the tone by which everyone underneath follows (at least theoritically). The next Chief regardless of ethnicity, gender, etc. has to be a person who can be above the “political correctness” often demonstrated by the politicians which especially includes the Mayor however, its the Mayor’s appointment that will be considered for this important post by the Police Commission. Bratton leaves some pretty big shoes to be filled although I did not agree with his “continued” compliance with special order-40. Its unfortunate that the citizenry of Los Angeles has allowed itself to get caught-up with the notion that ethnicity if more important of a criteria rather than the qualifications needed for this important job. I would hope that both the Latino and Black community would be more concerned with reducing the deaths of their youth rather than the “color” of the next police chief. We currently have a Latino Sheriff and we had a two Black LAPD chiefs, youth gang violence did not significantly go down. Under a White police chief (Bratton) we seen a reduction in gang violence and crime, I don’t think it was Bratton’s color that made the difference, it was his innovation, inter-personal skills with diversed people, willingness to admit problems with the department and accountability that made his tenure as chief so successful. These are the qualities we need to be looking for in a police chief, definitely not his or her color.

  10. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Richard, I certainly hope that ethnicity and color will take a back seat and we just look for the best man or woman for the job.

    But I also worry that it will be too big a factor.

  11. Ernesto Cienfuegos Says:

    LA VOZ DE AZTLAN EDITORIAL
    Los Angeles, Alta California
    August 13, 2009

    Los Angeles should appoint
    its first Latino police chief

    The USA now has its first Black president and the US Supreme Court has its first Latina associate justice but, incredibly, the Los Angeles Police Department after 54 consecutive police chiefs since 1869, has never had a police chief of Mexican or Latino descent. The LAPD which serves the second largest city population of Mexican descent, second only to Mexico City, has historically had a deeply entrenched White command structure.

    Only recently has the LAPD had two Black police chiefs. The first was Willie L. Williams who served from 1992 to1997 as the 50th police chief. Willie Williams was appointed as a consequences of the racist LAPD beating of Black motorist Rodney King which resulted in the costly city riots of 1992. The second Black police chief was Bernard C. Parks who served from 1997 to 2002. All the 52 other LAPD chiefs have been White, many with a reputation of being extremely corrupt and some repugnantly racist.

    Today, with the resignation of Police Chief William J. Bratton, who was appointed by former Mayor James K. Hahn, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has the opportunity to reverse many decades of discrimination and institutional racism within the LAPD. Antonio Villaraigosa is in fact the first mayor of Mexican descent of “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula” since after the Mexican-American War. Will the mayor make history? What historical legacy will Antonio Villaraigosa leave in Los Angeles?

    There are today many extremely professional, qualified and respected Latino officers in the LAPD who have been bypassed by a discriminatory and biased personnel promotion system. These officers have prevailed in spite of the well known “White racist police culture” that still exists within the LAPD. One of these officers is Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz.

    Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz recently replaced the racist Deputy Chief Cayler Carter Jr, who was demoted in a major shake-up of his command staff after a May Day police melee at MacArthur Park. Carter was the highest ranking officer at MacArthur Park and led a vicious racist attack on Latino news reporters, women and children during an immigration rights rally. The city, because of the beatings, recently agreed to pay more than $30 million to settle lawsuits alleging LAPD misconduct.

    In contrast, Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz handled subsequent immigration rights marches with great expertise which won the respect of Spanish speaking Los Angeles. Los Angeles needs this type of police leadership. We do not need any more destructive riots caused many times by racist police brutality.

    The Los Angeles Personnel Department will formally begin the selection process for police chief next week. The department will be presenting at least six candidates to the Board of Police Commissioners, which will narrow the list to three candidates and send them to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in ranked order. Mayor Villaraigosa’s choice will then be presented to the City Council for confirmation.

    Call or write to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Tell him it is time to appoint a Latino police chief for the city of Los Angeles.

    * * * * * *

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