[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece under the headline “What Los Angeles needs in its next police chief . . .” Times editorial writer Marjorie Miller spoke with “some of the LAPD’s chief critics, supporters and stakeholders” and solicited their views on the qualities they hoped to see in the chief who will succeed William Bratton when he steps down on October 31. Ms. Miller e-mailed me and asked for my input for the piece, which I provided as follows:
I’ve known nearly all of the people named as potential candidates to replace Chief Bratton for more than twenty years. In that time I’ve seen how they’ve changed – or haven’t – as they’ve risen through the ranks. I’m wary of offering an endorsement for fear of burdening any of them with the Mark Kroeker curse. Recall that in 1997, rank-and-file-officers favored Kroeker over Bernard Parks by a wide margin only to see then-Mayor Richard Riordan select Parks. The five years that followed were marked by scandal, declining morale and, most significantly, rising crime. Whoever our next chief may be, he or she should remember one lesson of the Parks years: that the morale of the cop on the street can be subordinated to politics only up to a point, beyond which the cop turns from thoughts of fighting crime to those of preserving his own career.
A few days later, I received the following e-mail from Ms. Miller:
My editors have decided not to use your comments. I apologize for wasting your time–and for free, yet. I did not realize when I asked you to contribute that they are uncomfortable publishing someone under a pseudonym when they don’t know the real name. I thought we had used your
stuff before and wasn’t aware of prior decisions on this. My mistake. Thank you anyway.
I’ve long since stopped keeping track of which names have come and gone from the ever-shrinking masthead at the Times, but there was a time when my identity was known and safeguarded by a number of editors there, during which I contributed on a semi-regular basis to the Sunday Opinion section. I suppose those editors are gone now.
Our host is far better informed than I am on the goings-on at the Times, and he’s written previously on my on-again, off-again relationship with the paper. Perhaps he’ll have more to say on it later.