Gates' backers say he'll quit Los Angeles job

July 13, 1991|By New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES -- Amid growing signs that political support fo Police Chief Daryl F. Gates is eroding in the aftermath of a report on racism and brutality in his department, two of his staunchest supporters on the City Council said yesterday that he would retire by the end of the year.

While Chief Gates' own comments yesterday were ambiguous, the two supporters -- John Ferraro, the council president, and Joel Wachs, a council member -- said the chief had agreed to an "orderly process" of change under which they would propose a special election in November or December to ask voters to limit the tenure of police chiefs to two five-year terms.

They said the 64-year-old chief would leave office even if the ballot measure failed.

"Approximately Dec. 31, Chief Gates will pass the mantle to a new chief, to be selected under whatever system the voters of Los Angeles choose," Mr. Wachs said.

Chief Gates, who has civil service status and cannot be forced to retire, was less direct.

He was quoted by the Associated Press as saying in Winston-Salem, N.C.: "I think there's going to be an effort to get that [tenure limitation] on the ballot, and once that's on that ballot, then I may feel that it may be the time to announce a date of resignation, but it's got to go on the ballot first." He was at a conference of a police-sponsored program to combat drug abuse among schoolchildren.

Mayor Tom Bradley, who earlier failed to oust the chief, said that the city personnel department would soon draft guidelines for a nationwide search for a new chief.

"I think all of us can now begin the healing process in this city," the mayor said. Asked about Chief Gates' comments, Mr. Bradley said, "It is clear enough to me that Chief Gates will retire as of the end of this year."

It has been a week of tumultuous developments in a city that is still in turmoil over the savage beating of an unarmed black motorist on March 3 by white Los Angeles police officers.

The beating was videotaped by an amateur photographer and broadcast nationally, stirring widespread outrage. Many local leaders have attributed the problem to Chief Gates, who has been chief for 13 years, but he has retained considerable political support.

On Tuesday, a commission headed by Warren Christopher, a former assistant secretary of state, issued a report documenting racism and excessive force by Los Angeles police officers and calling for the replacement of Chief Gates.

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