The LAPD has an Asian American chief for the first time. He's the son of Korean immigrants

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Asian American assistant chief was named interim chief of the Los Angeles Police Department on Wednesday, taking charge of a force that mostly has been led by white men.

Assistant Chief Dominic H. Choi was unanimously appointed by the civilian Board of Police Commissioners. Choi, the son of Korean immigrants, will be the first Asian American to head the agency when he begins his role on March 1.

The appointment follows the surprise retirement of Chief Michel Moore, whose tenure was marked by greater scrutiny into excessive force and police killings of civilians in the nation’s second-largest city. Choi said he has never used deadly force during his 28 years as an officer.

Choi will be the interim chief as the mayor and police commission spend the next six to nine months searching for a permanent replacement — among the LAPD’s ranks and nationwide — to head up the department of nearly 9,000 officers during the 2026 World Cup and the 2028 Olympics.

Moore will stay on as a consultant for an unspecified period of time. He had pledged during his tenure to increase diversity within the department. As of Jan. 14, the latest figures, the agency is comprised of 8,975 sworn personnel: 54% are of Hispanic descent, 25% are white, nearly 9% are Black officers and 8% are Asian American.

The city of Los Angeles, however, has a population that is 48.1% Hispanic or Latino, 41% white, 8.6% Black and 11.8% Asian, according to 2022 Census estimates.

“I’m very happy to be the first Korean American interim chief of the Los Angeles Police Department,” he said, “and I proudly represent that community. But just to be absolutely clear, my role is to represent all communities within this city.”

In taking this role, Choi is not allowed to apply for the permanent chief position. He pledged to set the stage for a smooth transition for the next person.

“My philosophy as interim chief is not to go in there and turn the place upside-down and make significant change,” he said during Wednesday's news conference announcing his appointment.

Choi started his policing career in 1995 and was promoted in 2021 to assistant chief, which is the rank just below chief. His roles in the department have included serving as the agency's homeless coordinator.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, applauded Choi's promotion.

“The appointment of Assistant Chief Dominic Choi to lead the LAPD is an excellent choice that will instill confidence amongst the rank and file during this interim period while the search for a permanent Chief takes place,” the league's board of directors wrote in a statement.