"This is the Los Angeles Police Department," Charlie Beck said. "No one is more capable of laying down the law than we are. No one should have any illusions that this will be a difficult crowd management for us. No one should have any illusions that this is a sign of weakness, inability or lack of will from the police department."
Officers will clear the camp when they can "do it effectively and efficiently and with minimal force," he said, adding time was on the department's side.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had set a 12:01 a.m. Monday deadline for protesters to clear their tents and other possessions from the camp on City Hall's south lawn. Police withdrew from the area at dawn without trying to break up the encampment.
Villaraigosa said Monday evening nearly half the tents had been removed from the park, and called it a sign the deadline was working and arrests could be avoided -- in contrast to the violence that accompanied forceful Occupy evictions in Oakland, Calif.; New York; and elsewhere.
Some observers expressed concern the non-confrontational approach could erode the city's authority and embolden Occupy protesters.
Valley Industry and Commerce Association President Stuart Waldman told the Los Angeles Times the city should have adopted the strategy used by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in which scores of activists were swiftly arrested and their belongings confiscated in a surprise early morning raid.
"By not sticking to the 12:01 deadline, they're essentially saying, 'You need to leave by this time, but it's OK if you don't,'" he said. "There need to be consequences."
Occupy LA demonstrations Monday drew hundreds of new supporters, including clergy and other community leaders who stood in solidarity with the protesters, the Times said.
At the same time, group of protesters filed for a federal injunction against the eviction deadline, saying it was a free-speech violation.
The lawsuit accuses Villaraigosa and Beck of overstepping their authority without involvement from the City Council, which had given protesters an exemption from a ban on overnight public stays.