Southers joins fraternity brothers William Briggs and Brian Williams on Mayor Bass’ public safety team.
Dr. Erroll Southers, an internationally recognized law enforcement expert, was recently elected vice president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, bringing his years of expertise to Mayor Karen Bass’ public safety team.
Currently the associate senior vice president of Safety and Risk Assurance at USC, Southers has experience in the field on the local, state, and federal levels. Also, he has maintained a 40-year relationship with LAPD and police departments throughout the world, all of which makes him imminently qualified for his new role.
Explaining his reasoning for accepting the volunteer assignment, Southers said, “First of all, I am a huge supporter of Mayor Bass. I have known her for more than 15 years and worked very closely with her when she was in Congress.”
As for his credentials, he noted, “I have a national security, homeland security and law enforcement background. Also, I have testified before Congress and the Senate and before the Congressional Black Caucus.”
Southers’ extensive qualifications stem from previously serving as an FBI SWAT agent, deputy director for critical infrastructure under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, assistant chief of homeland security at Los Angeles World Airports, and on the Commission of the State of Hate appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Also, he was President Obama’s first nominee for TSA assistant secretary, served as assistant vice president/chief of protection services at L.A. County Museum of Art, and taught classes in national and homeland security at USC. The combination of his experiences will be an asset as a police commissioner, according to Southers.
“I’m engaged right now in a listing tour in the department, and I hope to be engaged in the same listening tour in the community,” said Southers, who earned Master’s and Doctoral degrees in public policy from USC.
“I’d like to be more engaged, listen to people. We all talk about building trust. We all talk about transparency, but now I’m in a position to implement that and see that it happens. So now it really is about walking the walk. I’d like to have people look back on my tenure and say there was some real changes.”
The vice president also plans to interact with the LAPD workforce to learn about employee issues and concerns. Having been a police officer in Santa Monica, Southers said it was important to “have the buy-in of the rank and file.”
“One of the things I’ve heard so far is they (LAPD staff) believe that I’m a Commissioner who knows what they go through. I’ve been a police officer and an assistant chief, so I understand what it’s like,” he noted.
“So, I think I’m getting a little more latitude and honesty and candor as I’m talking to officers because they know me, and I can’t tell you how many LAPD officers are my former students.
That’s helping me quite a bit with a level of trust between me and those officers,” said Southers.
“For me to say to them that change is necessary is different than someone from outside the department saying that to them, so I hope that’s going to help.”
Being acquainted with current officers should help Southers as he serves on the Police Commission. Another factor in his favor is that he’ll work closely with William Briggs, Commission president, and Brian Williams, deputy mayor for Public Safety. All three men are members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, a fact that none of them initially knew.
“I connected with Brian when he was at the Sheriff’s Department,” said Southers, referring to Williams’ prior job as executive director of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission.
“One day at the Commission, I’m having a conversation in William’s (Briggs) office, and I just happen to say, ‘you know, Brian and I are brothers – Alpha Phi Alpha.’
“William started laughing and that’s how we found out. So, for me, I was appointed by the mayor to join two other family members. There’s an automatic level of trust and respect,” he insisted.
Southers plans to convey equal trust and respect to the public and employees during his term on the Police Commission. Also, he intends to be guided by his mantra, which is a saying that his father quoted to him – you can’t change the castle from outside the moat.
“That’s been my mantra throughout my career. I’ve been inside the ‘castle’ of several law enforcement agencies and now I’m in a position to actually impact the work, the policies and the strategies that are in place in the department,” he said.
“And I just look forward to working with people and hearing the views and opinions of others.”