Mesa officials have begun contract talks with one of Los Angeles’ top police officers as the city finalizes its search to find a police chief.
City Councilman Mike Whalen said Mesa has been negotiating with George Gascón, the assistant police chief in Los Angeles. He said city officials and Gascón have discussed health benefits and other contract details, although no official job offer was on the table as of Thursday afternoon.
Gascón, 52, and Phoenix assistant police chief John Buchanan were the two finalists for Mesa’s top police job. Last month, the city narrowed its list of candidates from four to two.
City Manager Chris Brady will decide which candidate to hire. Yet Brady refused to comment Thursday on whether he considers Gascón to be the strongest candidate.
Brady also refused to confirm whether he’s started formal talks with Gascón. He said he doesn’t want to negotiate in the newspaper.
Still, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that Gascón was considering an offer from Mesa that could lure him away from one of the nation’s largest police departments.
On Thursday, Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Martha Garcia told the Tribune that Gascón was indeed entertaining an offer but had not announced a decision.
Bryan Soller, president of the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police, said he heard from Mesa’s command officers that Gascón had received an offer. Soller said he hasn’t received confirmation from the city manager’s office.
Gascón could not be reached for comment.
Soller said it was a little odd for Los Angeles to find out the latest news before Mesa. He said it’s possible Gascón asked Los Angeles for a counteroffer.
“My question would be ‘Who let L.A. know?’ “ Soller said. “There is only one person that could have done that, and that’s Gascón himself. And why did he do that? Maybe to work a better deal.”
Born in Cuba and raised in Los Angeles, Gascón speaks Spanish fluently and rose from the rank of officer to the third-highest position in the Los Angeles department in less than 20 years. He currently operates a department with 12,600 employees, and he is the only police chief candidate with a law degree.
Although Soller said he believes both men are highly qualified, a poll within the Mesa Police Department revealed that most employees preferred to see Gascón selected for the post, Soller said.
“He’s the real deal. He’s a big guy,” Soller said. “He makes our department look like small potatoes.”