Willie Williams, LAPD’s First Black Police Chief, Dies at 72

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Then-Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams is seen at a press conference on March 30, 1994, where he announced the arrest of two suspects in the killing of two students from Japan during a carjacking in San Pedro. (Credit: Carlos Schiebeck/AFP/Getty Images)

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Willie Williams, who became Los Angeles’ first African American police chief in the aftermath of the 1992 riots, has died. He was 72.

His death was confirmed Wednesday by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Williams stepped into the top job at the LAPD at a sensitive time, as the department reeled from criticism over its handling of the riots and Los Angeles struggled to mend racial divides. He replaced Daryl Gates, who had long been criticized for running a department that mistreated minority groups, particularly blacks, in Los Angeles.

Williams helped usher in a series of reforms in the wake of the Rodney J. King beating case. Under him, the department grew by 2,000 officers and the LAPD adopted more “community policing” strategies that were designed to be less confrontational than the methods Gates used. He won credit for restoring confidence to the department.

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