Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, May 7 in Philadelphia for Willie Williams, who became the first black chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the L.A. riots.
Williams, 72, died Tuesday night at his home in Fayetteville, Georgia. A relative said he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
According to the LAPD, there will also be two viewings for Williams. The first viewing will take place Monday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Carl J. Mowell & Son Funeral home at 180 Jeff Davis Dr. in Fayetteville, Georgia. Williams’ body will then be flown to Philadelphia for burial at the Zion Baptist Church at 3600 N. Broad St. at 11 a.m. on May 7. The funeral will be preceded by a viewing from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the American Cancer Society for the cure of pancreatic cancer in Williams’ name.
At police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, flags are being flown at half-staff to honor Williams. And Chief Charlie Beck has authorized all department members to wear a black mourning band on their badges to recognize Williams’ service.
Williams served as LAPD chief from June 30, 1992, to May 17, 1997. He became the city’s top cop following the resignation of Chief Daryl Gates in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. He came to Los Angeles after serving four years as Philadelphia’s police commissioner — the first black person to hold that position. Williams was a Philadelphia police officer for more than 20 years.
With the LAPD in turmoil following the Rodney King beating, the acquittal of the officers involved and the ensuing riots, Williams worked to implement changes in the department to bolster its relationship with black communities in the city.
During his tenure, the LAPD grew by 2,000 officers and the department adopted more “community policing” strategies that were designed to be less confrontational — putting officers on the streets, interacting with the public.
While he won some praise for building community relationships, his leadership style and ability was often called into question by critics, who suggested that improvements in the department were being slowed by a lack of leadership. His bid for a second term as chief was rejected by the Police Commission in 1997.
Williams was never really accepted by the old guard at the LAPD, who were still loyal to the late former Chief Daryl Gates. In 1995, Williams was reprimanded by the L.A. Police Commission for allegedly lying about accepting free accommodations at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
However, police sources who spoke confidentially to Newsweek Magazine and the L.A. Weekly said the investigation into his travel and housing was a rogue operation conducted by disgruntled detectives in the Organized Crime Intelligence Division — since reformed as Organized Crime and Vice Division — to discredit Williams.
In March of 2002, Williams was appointed as federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport.
—Staff and wire reports