Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Parks Says He Will Resign, Won’t Sue City Over Reappointment Decision
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Bernard Parks said yesterday he would leave the department and would not sue the city over its decision not to give him a second five-year term.
He hinted he may run for the soon-to-be vacated Eighth District City Council seat. That post is now held by Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is virtually certain to be elected to the state Assembly in November.
“I can assure you that you have not heard or seen the last of Bernard Parks,” the chief said at a news conference in front of Parker Center. “Our paths will cross again.”
The chief, who left for vacation immediately after making his announcement, said he will make his departure official sometime next week, but that he considers his term over.
“This is my last official action as chief of police,” Parks said.
Parks, whose term is to expire Aug. 12, sent a letter to the Police Commission asking it to appoint an interim chief, but promised to be available to help the department make the transition.
The Police Commission will begin compiling a list of possible candidates to serve as interim chief, Police Commission President Rick Caruso said.
“This list, which will consist of individuals within the Department, but not necessarily interested in the permanent Chief position, will be compiled based on our knowledge of the staff and from suggestions from interested parties,” Caruso said.
Deputy Chief Michael Bostic is currently serving as acting chief while Parks is on vacation, as part of the department’s regular rotation of deputy chiefs.
Parks said he made the decision to leave the LAPD four and a half months before the end of his term because the controversy surrounding the reappointment process was a “distraction to the department’s law enforcement efforts.”
Last Wednesday the City Council voted 11-3 not to assert jurisdiction over the Police Commission’s 4-1 decision earlier this month not to reappoint Parks.
Before the vote, Parks’ attorney Gloria Allred sent City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo a six-page letter detailing the numerous laws she said may have been violated by the city during the reappointment process, including the Brown Act and the constitutional rights of procedural and substantive due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Parks said after looking at all his options, he decided not to sue because he went through the reappointment process merely to expose the deficiencies in the process, and not to benefit financially.
“Although I have been advised by my attorneys that I have a strong legal case and would likely prevail in court, I have no intention of suing the city of Los Angeles as I do not want the citizens of this great city to incur any economic loss or have to allocate taxpayer funds to defend the claims I may have.”
Allred continued to maintain Parks would have come out victorious in court, but said he chose not to exercise that option because that was not his key objective.
“It was and still is our legal opinion that Chief Parks had very strong legal claims against the city had he chosen to exercise them,” Allred said.
“I think the chief’s main concern was not that he wouldn’t prevail, but that he would and the taxpayers would be responsible for millions in damages and in defending the lawsuit,” she said.
Parks had a laundry list of possibilities for his post-LAPD future, including running for City Council, participating in a voter registration drive with various community based organizations to show citizens the benefits of voting and educating himself and others on the secession issue. Running for the council would require Parks, who does not live in the city, to move in to the district.
“For every door that closes, another one opens, and I and many others are looking forward to walking through the door with Bernard Parks as he continues his commitment to public service,” Allred said.
Mayor James Hahn, who publicly opposed a second term for Parks, congratulated him on his 37 years of service.
“I think the chief has an opportunity of getting on with his life,” Hahn said. “He’s certainly earned his retirement.”
If Parks decides to run for the District Eight seat, he would be facing at least six other contenders, including state Assemblyman Roderick “Rod” Wright, D- Los Angeles.
Ridley-Thomas, a Parks’ supporter, issued a statement late Thursday afternoon calling Parks’ resignation “a loss for the City.”
“As for Chief Parks’ next role, if he seeks to continue to his public service as the City Council representative of the Eighth Council District, I wish him well and look forward to hearing from him as he shares his views, along with other potential candidates,” Ridley-Thomas said.
Councilman Jack Weiss applauded Parks’ decisions not to sue the city and to help during the department’s changeover.
“I’m very impressed the chief has decided to work collaboratively with the interim chief, whoever that may be, to assure an orderly transition,” Weiss said.
Councilwoman Jan Perry said through a spokeswoman that she was “confident that Chief Bernard Parks, however he chooses to lead his life, will remain a strong voice and leader in the city of Los Angeles.” Perry was one of Parks’ strongest supporters.
In another development yesterday, the council’s Public Safety Committee requested an audit of how the Los Angeles Police Protective League spent $6.5 million in city funds earmarked to pay for the defense of police officers accused of misconduct.
Parks alleged last week the money was spent in other ways, including possibly to fund a television campaign against him, but Perry, who requested the audit, denied the two had anything to do with each other.
“All I want to talk about is how this money was spent,” Perry said. “It’s an accounting issue. That’s it.”
At issue is an agreement between the city and the league, worked out after a 2001 City Charter amendment relieved the department of having to pay for defending accused officers, Deputy City Attorney Fred Merkin said. In return for taking over the responsibility, the city agreed to pay the League $6.5 million, with $500,000 in seed money to be followed by four payments of $1.5 million each.
League representatives disputed the claim that the union has not fulfilled its part of the agreement by representing its officers, but said it would not turn over records of the accounts to members of the Public Safety Committee.
“The League has spent $980,000 to date on the representation of its officers,” Hank Hernandez, the union’s general counsel, said. The rest of the city money is in a trust fund for defense costs, he said.
“We have nothing to hide,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said the union was willing to cooperate, on condition that the account information not be made public.
After asking Merkin whether the League is legally bound to reveal how the city money was spent, Weiss questioned Hernandez’s intentions.
“So you have to open your books to us, why don’t you do it?,” he asked.
Perry’s motion for an audit by City Controller Laura Chick must be approved by the full council.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company