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CHIEF CECIL RHAMBO
CECIL RHAMBO IS A LONGTIME PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER
who currently serves as the Chief of Airport Police at LAX. Rhambo was raised by his parents in Compton and South Los Angeles after being adopted from Korea as an infant, graduating from George Washington High School in the mid-1970s.
After graduating from Humboldt State University, Cecil joined the LA County Sheriff’s Department and began a 33-year career in law enforcement. Cecil worked all over LA County in patrol and other assignments, including Narcotics in an undercover capacity for both the County and as a deputized Federal Agent.
Rhambo quickly moved up the ranks, becoming a Lieutenant at Internal Affairs, where he assisted in the formation of the Shooting and Force Response Teams initiated after the Rodney King beating, the first time the Internal Affairs Department began reviewing reports of excessive force. In this capacity, Rhambo assisted in creating a database where the misconduct records of officers would be tracked, and other measures that ensured a much more thorough review of use of force cases.
Shortly afterward in the late 1990s, Rhambo was put in charge of the Asian Crime Task Force, where he commanded a group of investigators and multilingual deputies to investigate crimes in LA County committed against Asians or by Asians, focusing on community outreach.
In 2000, after the city of Compton voted to disband its police department, Cecil was assigned to be the Captain of Compton’s Sheriff patrol contract. In his three years in this role, Rhambo focused on community policing in the worst-hit communities, which resulted in a dramatic reduction in crime, gang activity, and traffic fatalities along with establishing their first youth boxing and recreation center and Starbucks.
After leaving the city of Compton, Rhambo was asked to start the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Bureau, which focused on suppressing violent crime, combatting homelessness, and expanding their mental health response teams county-wide. In this position, Rhambo designed the basic model that’s used to address homeless people to this day by the Sheriff’s Department, relying on a “soft approach” of deputies partnering with outreach workers to make contact with the chronically homeless, get them into housing and connect them with services, including partnering with the Public Defender’s Office to expunge minor offenses that are often impediments to obtaining driver’s licenses, social security cards, or connecting with services. Rhambo also brought out mobile dental offices, showers, clothing exchanges, food, and community based service providers to assist the chronically unhoused.
Additionally, in this role, Rhambo led the Mental Health Response Team, which partnered a psych clinician with an ununiformed deputy to respond to calls for persons experiencing mental health crisis, and the Crisis Negotiations team which responded to high level crisis events such as SWAT responses, suicidal barricades, and other similar crisis events.
Rhambo was also put in charge of prison realignment under AB 109, where he worked with county officials and community organizations like Homeboy Industries as part of a comprehensive anti-recidivism campaign.
Later, when the Sheriff’s Department came under fire from the ACLU and the FBI for prisoner abuse, Rhambo stood up to his boss, then-Sheriff Lee Baca, and other people in leadership. Rhambo urged Baca to stop hiding an inmate informant from FBI agents who were investigating the abuse and fully comply, but was ignored. Rhambo eventually testified against the LASD’s corruption, resulting in the imprisonment of Baca and 11 deputies. Beyond LASD, Rhambo served as Assistant City Manager for the City of Carson and as City Manager of the City of Compton.
Now, as Chief of Airport Police, Rhambo leads the nation’s largest dedicated airport public safety force, with more than 1,100 sworn and civilian personnel at LAX and Van Nuys airports. Notably, he has long been a reform-minded leader. In fact after George Floyd's death, as LAX's Police Chief, Rhambo banned the practice of the chokehold so that what happened to George Floyd could never happen under his watch.