Willie Williams, former Los Angeles police chief, dies at 72
Willie Williams died the evening of April 26, at his home in Fayetteville, Ga. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Willie Williams was the first Black police chief in Los Angeles and Philadelphia
ATLANTA — Willie Williams, former Los Angeles police chief, where he took over in the wake of the Rodney King riots, has died, the Associated Press reported. He was 72.
His daughter-in-law Valerie Williams told The AP that he died the evening of April 26, at his home in Fayetteville, Ga. She said he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
In Los Angeles, Williams was selected in April 1992 to succeed police chief Daryl Gates, whose lengthy tenure had been shaken when four white officers were accused of beating King, a Black motorist. Gates was still in charge when the officers were acquitted, resulting in a riot that left parts of the city in ashes.
An outsider chosen over a field of insiders, Williams was given a mandate to restore public confidence and department morale. Critically, the following month voters amended the city charter to remove civil service protection for the chief’s job and limit the position to a five-year term, renewable once by the Police Commission, the department’s board of civilian overseers.
Williams’ term was marked by the O.J. Simpson murder case, which spotlighted sloppy evidence handling and racism in the department; resentment from within the ranks; and an investigation into whether he improperly accepted perks, including Las Vegas accommodations.
In 1997, the commission exercised its new power and unanimously denied Williams a second five-year contract. The commission president said that Williams had become a symbol of positive change but had failed to become a respected leader.
Williams fought to remain chief but ultimately accepted a severance package and left, saying the 1992 reform measure had unintentionally allowed politics to intrude into the department’s management.
Williams started his career as a cop in Philadelphia in 1962. He moved up the ranks over the following two decades before then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. appointed him commissioner in 1988. He ran the Philadelphia Police Department until 1992.
In 2002, Williams was appointed federal security director at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport.