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Willie Williams (1943 - 2016)

Getty Images / AFP / Carlos Schiebeck

Willie Williams (1943 - 2016)

Willie Williams, the first African-American chief of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles police departments, died April 27, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was 72.

Williams died after a battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife, Evelina, said in a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Williams started out as a police officer in the Philadelphia Police Department. He spent over 20 years working his way up in the department and was selected as the first African-American police commissioner in 1988. He was appointed to that position by then-Mayor Wilson Goode.


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In 1992, he was appointed as the Los Angeles Police Department Chief by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, not long after the Rodney King riots. He was the chief of the department until 1997, when the Los Angeles Police Commission declined to renew his contract.

In 2002, Williams was appointed federal security director for Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, "Truly was my inspiration. People have asked me multiple times when I knew or aspired to be the police commissioner and it was when I met him.

"He was a guy who was even-tempered, but a firm guy, had strong leadership skills, but he was also one of the initial proponents of community policing and he pushed that very hard."

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