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The LAPD: Chief Williams
However, 1992 was a watershed year for the Los Angeles Police Department, and for the Chief. The verdict in the Rodney King trial, which acquitted four LAPD officers, and the subsequent April rioting were flash points that placed the Department under a microscope of public scrutiny. National debates about race relations in America, the disintegration of urban America, and the role of police in these issues continued for months. No other agency withstood so much public examination, as did the LAPD in 1992. In the midst of this community trial, the Los Angeles Police Department experienced a change in Police Chiefs. With the retirement of Chief Gates, Chief Willie L. Williams took the helm in June of 1992. Chief Williams was the 50th Chief of Police and the first African-American and the first Chief from outside the Department to assume command in more than four decades. With Chief Williams came a grant of $607,000 from the Department of Justice to make changes within the Department. These changes included rebuilding the patrol force, rejuvenating the Basic Car Plan, and restoring the public confidence in the police department.
In 1995 the Los Angeles Police Department began to upgrade its facilities. The year began with the opening of the Recruit Training Center in Westchester and by year’s end more than 1,000 recruits had passed through its portals. Also, the Department began to plan new police stations for North Hollywood, 77th Street, and Newton Street. These new stations were constructed and operational by 1997. These were the first new police stations in more than 20 years. In August of 1996, ground was broken for a new 44-acre Emergency Vehicle Operations Center (EVOC), in Granada Hills. This multipurpose training facility will combine vehicle, firearms, and tactical training for officers and recruits and is expected to be completed in 1998.
In May 1997 Chief Williams left the Department, and the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners appointed Assistant Chief Bayan Lewis as the interim Chief. As Assistant Chief under Williams, he served as director of the Office of Operations, the largest command in the Department. He also had been in charge of Robbery-Homicide Division, Air Support, and the Juvenile Division, among others. Lewis was instrumental in creating the Department’s mobile field force in which all officers are trained to quell disturbances in the City. The field forces have been called out for a variety of reasons, including the North Hollywood bank robbery shootout in February 28, 1997. Lewis joined the LAPD in April 1963 and, following many dedicated years of public service to the residents of Los Angeles, announced his retirement on September 14, 1997.