Philly and Los Angeles’ First Black Police Head Dead at 72

By Sameer Rao Apr 28, 2016

Willie L. Williams, the first Black top cop in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles, died yesterday (April 27). His family confirmed his passing to publications in both cities. He died at the age of 72 after a longtime battle with pancreatic cancer.

Williams became Philadelphia’s police commissioner in 1988. He served there for four years, then joined the brutality scandal-plagued Los Angeles Police Department shortly after the Rodney King verdict and ensuing riots.

According to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Williams implemented community policing policies in both cities. In Los Angeles, those policies accompanied other pushes to increase the number of women and people of color on the force and address sexual harrassment among officers. He also advocated for department reforms based on the Christopher Commission‘s post-riots recommendations. 

Williams faced scrutiny over those policies, which increased when the civilian Police Commission investigated allegations that he accepted free hotel stays in Las Vegas. Williams attributed the allegations to a smear campaign. 

Read the Times’ full obituary here.