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New police chief eyeing Olympics

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Rick Dinse has seen his share of major events in 34 years with the Los Angeles Police Department — the 1984 Summer Games, Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit, the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

Now, Dinse may experience another. He will be sworn in as Salt Lake City's new police chief Tuesday, with less than a month until Salt Lake marks the 500-day countdown to the 2002 Winter Games.

Commissioner of Public Safety Craig Dearden said Dinse could be elected as the vice commander of the Olympic Public Safety Command, a job held by past Police Chief Ruben Ortega and interim chief Arthur "Mac" Connole. The 20-member Olympic command will vote on the vacant position Thursday.

Dearden said he has no problem with the experience of newcomer Dinse filling the spot.

"Certainly the host city's chief is important," Dearden said. "I think that anyone that has the ability to lead the Salt Lake City Police Department and has the experience to lead large events, it probably wouldn't take him long to catch up."

In an interview with the Deseret News, Dinse called the 2002 Winter Games his "primary challenge" and said his experience with events like the recent Democratic National Convention in L.A. will be helpful as he prepares for his second Olympics.

"Coordinating all of those training aspects was probably as complex as planning for the Olympics, maybe more so," Dinse said.

The son of a paper product salesman, Dinse worked most recently as a deputy chief commanding 1,500 officers in the western Los Angeles district, which includes the Los Angeles International Airport, Hollywood and Venice Beach. Mayor Rocky Anderson hired Dinse out of 56 candidates in July.

Ortega retired in January.

Becoming Salt Lake City's police chief after serving as deputy chief in the second largest city in the United States was a "natural move," said the silver-haired 58-year-old.

"It was time to move on," Dinse said. "I had been considering leaving the LAPD for a while, but not because I'm unhappy . . . If I wanted to be chief of police somewhere it was time for me to give it a try."

Dinse takes over a department of more than 400 officers. While he plans to meet and greet before deciding which direction to take the force, Dinse said there are some things he'll make a priority.

Racial profiling has been a hot topic in recent months since Salt Lake City released a preliminary report that police said offers proof officers did not stop or ticket an unbalanced number of minorities.

"It is a nationwide issue and one that I think certainly deserves our attention," Dinse said. "I'm opposed to racial profiling, and I don't think that we should be profiling people based on race in any fashion."

Dinse said he also plans to hire a diverse police force to match Salt Lake City's growing ethnic populations. According to statistics provided by the department, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Island officers comprise 4 percent of the force. Blacks and American Indians make up 1 percent.

Police say the best comparison to the department's makeup is the Salt Lake City School District's enrollment for the 1999-2000 school year. Those numbers show Hispanics made up 26 percent of the population, Pacific Islanders 5 percent, blacks 3 percent and American Indians 2 percent.

"I think the police department should be a reflection of that diversity," Dinse said. "We certainly are going to try to recruit and improve our diversity to match that."

Other issues on Dinse's hit list include the city's meth problem and traffic collisions.

Dinse is not the first LAPD veteran to be a police chief in Utah.

West Valley Police Chief Alan Kerstein worked for several years with Dinse in L.A. and credits Dinse with helping him land his current position.

Kerstein said Dinse's greatest quality is his personal integrity. He's also very active, Kerstein said.

"He would show up in the Hollywood Division in uniform at 3 a.m. and talk to the watch commanders," Kerstein said.Kerstein told Dinse of Salt Lake City's need for a police chief, and in the months since has helped Dinse assimilate into the job.

Dinse leaves behind one son in the LAPD and two sons attending college in the L.A. area. Kerstein's wife of 26 years will remain in L.A. for the next six months working as a secretary to the captain of the Devonshire police station in the northwest part of the San Fernando Valley.

E-MAIL: djensen@desnews.com