Choosing a New Chief for the LAPD: It’s Down to 3 Finalists

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Monday, the five-member LA Police Commission announced that they have forwarded their list of three finalists to Mayor Eric Garcetti for the position of Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, to replace Chief Charlie Beck, who is retiring on June 27.

The three names, which were sent to Mayor Garcetti on Friday, and he has belatedly decided not to release, will have been ranked in order of the commission’s preference. Garcetti will make his pick from the three, which he is likely to do by the end of the month, or sooner.

Last Wednesday, the commission interviewed a group of five semi-finalists for the top job, who were chosen from the total of 31 men and women who originally threw their metaphorical hats into the ring in March. The names of four of the five are (in alphabetical order) LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, former Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, Assistant Chief Michel Moore, and Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides.

It is fairly common knowledge that San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is the fifth name on the list of five. But it is also important to note that the existence of SFPD Chief Scott’s name on the list has never been 100 percent confirmed. (Scott is a former LAPD Deputy Chief.)

As for the three finalists…well, read on.

A changing of the guard

As most readers will remember, on Friday, January 19, at an otherwise routine press conference with Mayor Garcetti, Chief Charlie Beck abruptly announced his retirement. thus necessitating the selection of a new chief.

Beck will officially leave the department he has led since 2009 on June 27—which is also Beck’s 65th birthday—a year and a half before his second term ends.

“Serving the citizens of Los Angeles for over 40 years has been the honor of a lifetime. Leading the men and women of the #LAPD—my family—has been a privilege I never thought I’d be worthy of,” Beck wrote shortly after the announcement in a series of tweets.

“I plan on working every day until that day as the Chief of the greatest law enforcement agency in the country. I believe we are in the right place to support my decision, and give the next generation of #LAPD leaders an opportunity to lead.

“The department is ready for fresh eyes to take our organization to even higher levels….”

Even the outsiders are insiders

Although Chief Charlie Beck said he’s ready to hand over the LAPD’s reins, Beck, and most everyone else we’ve spoken to on the topic, believes that the city’s next chief should be someone who has come up through the ranks of the department. This would, of course, include Sandy Jo McArthur and SFPD Chief Scott.

In other words, even the two outsiders who are reportedly on the semi-final list of five who were chosen from the original pool of 31 applicants, are also—in reality— insiders.

The fact that sources have uniformly suggested that the commission, and the mayor, have been focused on LAPD insiders in their search for the right man or woman to succeed Charlie Beck tells its own story.

For one thing this insider focus is a vote of confidence for Beck, in the sense that it suggests that while continued reform of the department is certainly necessary, none making the selections are looking for a radical veering from the road down which Beck has been traveling with the department.

But, as one source suggested, it was also telling that, although the commission held a series of six community forums to find out what LA residents wanted to see in a new chief, although people showed up at each of the forums, the crowds were much smaller than expected. This together with results of the online community survey the city conducted, which drew 1,143 responses, suggested that while LA community members certainly want additional reform in their police force, and are particularly desirous of of a new chief who promotes further transparency, along with a department head who holds officers accountable for their actions, Los Angeles is not looking for some outsider savior to ride in and save the day.

In other words, said the source, while there are still problems to be addressed, “in general, communities like the direction the department is moving.”

This is quite a different mood than that which was present in 2002 when Bill Bratton took over the scandal-plagued agency.

Five different choices

In brief, here is a quick rundown on the four men and one woman who are reportedly the semi-finalists. Read carefully so you can make your own educated bets about the final three.

Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, who is third generation Mexican American, and an Army veteran, has been with the LAPD for more than 29 years. Right now, Arcos heads the LAPD’s Central Bureau, which includes among other communities, downtown LA. This means his bureau is in charge of policing the area that is ground zero of the city’s—and arguably the state’s— homelessness crisis. Central Bureau also includes the diverse communities of Eagle Rock, the garment district, MacArthur Park, Dodger Stadium, Griffith Park and more. Arcos’ rise through the department includes time working in patrol, gangs, vice, narcotics, community policing as a senior lead officer, communications, K-9, and as platoon leader of the elite Metropolitan Division. Arcos is known to be balanced, well-regarded, and very competent. If selected, he would be the department’s first Latino chief.

Former Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, who retired in 2015 after 35 years at the LAPD, now works with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office as the mental health training coordinator for county law enforcement. In her rise through the department, MacArthur worked patrol, undercover and vice operations in stations that included Van Nuys, 77th, Foothill, and Southwest She was commanding officer of the Civil Rights Integrity Division, before eventually taking over as head the department’s Training Division, where she sometimes personally led workshops for the department on leadership, domestic violence, discrimination, and retaliation. A well-liked Bratton protege who was seen as skilled at fixing areas of the agency in need of help, MacArthur went from training to serve as one of the three assistant chiefs who worked directly under Beck, from 2009 until she retired. She still volunteers as a reserve officer for the department. If selected, MacArthur would be the LAPD’s first female chief.

First Assistant Chief Mike Moore is a 35-year veteran of the department who came up through the ranks working various patrol and investigative positions. Of the five, Moore has the broadest managerial experience, and is someone Charlie Beck trusts. Notably, in 1998 he was assigned to take over command of the Rampart division of the LAPD, after that station had blown itself to smithereens following the arrest of Rafael Perez and the department-wide scandal that resulted. After helping to straighten out Rampart, Moore headed the department’s West Bureau, and Valley Bureau. At the latter Moore helped pioneer innovative gang programs with local street-connected community organizations—well before it was fashionable. Moore has served in all three Assistant Chief positions, including his current position of First Assistant Chief, overseeing operations for the nation’s second largest police department, directly under Chief Beck. Some LAPD watchers believe the race is Moore’s to lose.

Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides, the head of South Bureau, is another Army veteran. He began his 27-years at the LAPD in Southeast division then worked patrol, vice, the elite Metro division, gangs, detectives, and more. But something about the city’s complicated Southeast division seemed to hook him, and Tingirides returned to head Southeast in 2007, where he developed innovative community and youth programs, which helped break down barriers in areas of the city that, for decades, had been justifiably suspicious of law enforcement. Homicides reportedly dropped in the area as a result of the partnerships. Now the respected head of the whole of South Bureau, Tingirides has since consulted with other cities like Chicago and New York, on implementing programs similar to what he worked to create in Watts.

Before talking over the embattled San Francisco Police Department in January 2017, SFPD Chief Bill Scott served 27 years in the LAPD, rising through the ranks to become Deputy Chief of LAPD’s South Bureau (just prior to Phil Tingirides). The Alabama-raised Scott was the highest ranking African American in the department when he was selected by the late San Francisco mayor, Ed Lee. Scott’s strong focus on community policing when at the LAPD was reportedly one of the elements that persuaded Lee to selected him. At the LAPD, Scott worked in patrol, detectives, gangs, and, interestingly, Internal Affairs, before eventually jumping to Deputy Chief of South Bureau, which includes Southwest Division, Southeast Divison, 77th Division, Harbor Division, South Traffic Division and Criminal Gang Homicide Division. South Bureau has 1700 employees, a larger number of officers than one would find on most city police forces. And now he’s been the chief of SFPD for well over a year, thus is the only person reportedly on the list who has had the experience of running his own department. And there are more than a few law enforcement watchers who think it would be unwise to count Scott out for Los Angeles.

So who are the three?

Originally, Mayor Garcetti said that he would reveal the names of the finalists. But late Monday, he abruptly changed his mind “to protect the confidentiality of the candidates,” a Garcetti spokesman, told the LA Times in an email.

And so now—although very persistent and persuasive rumors about the three names have reached us—for the moment, at least, we wait.


  • To quote the illustrious Celeste, “Beck, and most everyone else we’ve spoken to on the topic, believes that the city’s next chief should be someone who has come up through the ranks of the department”. And the reason why? Because they know the organization – which is huge – inside and out. They know how it works, they know how it is connected, they know where it is functional (and dysfunctional), they know the players, they know the internal politics, and they know what needs to be done to make it work better and more efficiently.

    Is the LAPD different than the LASD – which is just as big – in this regard? I don’t think so. Yet a LAPD “insider” comes in to the LASD and does not have a clue to any of the above. AND he’s proved it over and over. He’s even professed that he did not even realize “all the things that the Sheriff’s Department did.” Yes, it IS different but you are tying to put a square peg in a round hole. This is a Department where the Deputies actually write their arrest reports in the field while they are 10-8 instead of writing them in the station, shorting the area of radio cars – LAPD style (I once saw Fpk crew bring in a suspect who had a LAPD warrant to Fpk – they got tired of waiting for a LAPD unit in the field so they brought the guy to station – a hour later the unit arrives and THEN the officers spent another 45 minutes writing their “report” in our briefing room). This the LASD where no supervisor (was) required to make all the decisions for Deputies in the field. This is the LASD where the “problems” you inherited go much deeper than silver belt buckles and undersized stickers on the cars.

    I’m just hoping that you are the fifth name on the list.

  • Taking the analysis beyond a comparison of resume’s from the individual candidates, Mayor Garcetti operates with strong consideration for enhancing his image and expanding his electoral prospects outside of L.A. proper.
    Installing a new LAPD Chief of the female gender provides the highest rate of return to Garcetti’s own political capital.
    She is as qualified as any other candidate, and may bring advantages not related to any gender designation.
    She has kept busy since retiring from the department, in public service positions which don’t carry the level of exposure associated with top brass. That would indicate someone not overly dependent on winning attention and popularity. That’s good.
    In addition, she appears better equipped to bring improvements in areas where the department still needs to catch up.
    In particular, methods for interacting with agitated mental cases which don’t require turning them into hamburger meat.
    If Sandy Mac gets pinned with the badge when it comes off Beck – she will do fine.

  • I think marlin is on the right track, there’s noise Garcetti is going to run for POTUS, even if he’s not 100% committed I’m sure he wants to keep that option open. Looking at it through that lense-
    Black police chief- always a safe choice, nice to have during controversial race related incidents too. Also ,even if your black chief screws up it doesn’t seem to result in blow back on the politicians who appointed him, chalk it up to the soft racism of low expectations.

    Hispanic chief- one of those things that sounds better than it really is, politically speaking. Garcetti has to feel like he has the immigrant vote already sewed up, in fact he may have to start to making “tough on illegal immigration” noise in order to win nationally.

    Woman chief- pretty good bet, even if things go bad women chiefs tend to be seen as victims, probably not as helpful in race related incident as a black chief though.

    White male chief- political non starter unless there is a crisis (e.g. Bratton )

    Whoever Garcetti picks will give a good indication of which demographic he’s most worried about in a national election. If he’s more worried about Hillary in a primary he’ll probably pick the black chief, if he’s worried about Trump he’ll probably go with the woman chief.

  • Yet another silly analytical view from a typical suburbanite known as Maj Kong.

  • What about LGBT…0h and don’t forget “Q” special interest? A Female, Hispanic, LGBT…oh and “Q” candidate would be a tri-fecta.

  • I think that the los angeles police department should look for a tough no crap chief of police in the mold of the late and in my view great chief daryl gates who i think got alot of unfair attacks from the so called police reform leaders who were more concerened about their image in their neighborhood than really trying to take a close look about crime issues in parts of los angeles like watts and instead of trying to help chief gates clean with the the thugs in their area of the great city of los angeles they choose todo everything they could to obstruct his campaign too clean up our great city and even though i wished at times that chief gates had been a bit less brutal in his language in dealing with the politicial elite and media of our city i think on the whole i think chief gates did a pretty dam good job as the chief of the lapd and i think that chief moore should try to be alot more like chief gates and alot less like people like mark ridley thomas who would rather win the next election than be clear to his people about the promblems that confront his part of our great city and work with them to do things like work to attract businesses to his part of our great city in an effort to reduce the kinds of poverty that puts the many fine people of areas like watts very scared of living in their own area and give the poor children of the inner city programs that work to steer them clear of the gang lifestyle and other things instead of blaminh the police for promblems that are not mostly in my view the promblem of the lapd

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