Wednesday, January 6, 2002
Delgadillo Recuses Himself From Advising on Police Chief Reappointment
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo yesterday recused himself from providing legal advice to the Police Commission on the reappointment process for Chief Bernard Parks just hours after Mayor James Hahn confirmed his opposition to a second term for the chief.
Delgadillo named Patricia Tubert, who heads the Municipal Counsel Branch of the City Attorney’s Office, to serve in his place. Tubert served under Hahn in the City Attorney’s Office.
Delgadillo’s possible conflict of interest came to light after he voiced his support for Parks’ reappointment Sunday at the First AME Church, along with elected officials from across the county at his side.
“I stand before you today to declare that Bernard Parks is the man to lead us to an era of new faith in our city, and new trust in our neighborhoods,” Delgadillo told the congregation.
Delgadillo reissued his statements supporting Parks’ reappointment yesterday afternoon.
As city attorney, Delgadillo is charged with providing legal assistance to the commission, including advising the panel on the reappointment process. The commission has the power to accept or reject the chief’s application for a second five-year term.
In a two-page letter to Police Commission President Rick Caruso, Delgadillo said there is no conflict of interest under the law, but that he would recuse himself to avoid any perception of conflict with the reappointment process.
After announcing that he would not support Parks for a second term, Hahn said Delgadillo has a right to express his opinion, but suggested that he hire outside counsel to advise the commission to avoid any problems.
USC Law School Professor Erwin Chemerinsky called Delgadillo’s public support of Parks “completely inappropriate” given his role in the reappointment process.
“It’s very hard for the Police Commission to believe they are getting an independent legal analysis if their lawyer has already said what they should do,” Chemerinsky, former president of the Elected Charter Reform Commission, said.
Citing Parks’ unwillingness to budge on issues like police reform, recruitment and retention, and community policing, Hahn said the department needs new leadership if the city hopes to get those goals accomplished.
“To my friends in the African American community, I want you to know how difficult this decision was for me,” Hahn said. “But I could not make this decision on politics and personal friendships. I had to do what was best for the city and the police department.”
Hahn emphasized Parks’ opposition to the federal police reform consent decree, which Hahn negotiated as city attorney, and his elimination of the Senior Lead Officer program and subsequent unwillingness to reinstate it even after the community, the City Council and the Police Commission called for its return.
Hahn’s decision drew mixed reviews from the City Council.
Councilman Nate Holden called Hahn’s decision “outrageous” and “just plain wrong” and urged the commission to act independently in evaluating Parks.
“Chief Parks deserves that a fair and independent decision based on his performance as in officer rather than on the politics of convenience,” Holden said in a statement.
But Councilman Dennis Zine, a former LAPD officer and member of the police union’s board of directors, applauded Hahn’s decision, citing constant conflicts between the mayor and Hahn.
“Clearly his style of management and leadership is not working,” Zine said.
The police union issued a brief statement supporting the mayor’s decision not to support Parks.
“We have great respect for Mayor Hahn and he is showing real leadership in taking this position,” the police union said in a statement. “We are confident that changes and improvements can now be made, giving police officers the tools to better protect the public.”
The mayor said that the chief was aware of his position before Parks’ announcement last Thursday that he would be seeking a second term.
“We’ve had two meetings where we discussed our disagreements on issues…and I told him at that time, in the last meeting, that as it stood I did not support his request for reappointment,” Hahn said.
Hahn said he had a “cordial” conversation with Parks this morning and told him that it was time for the Police Commission to do its job now.
The commission, a group of five citizens hand-picked by Hahn, has until May 13 to decide on Parks’ fate.
But Hahn said that while he felt the commission should know his opinion, they will act independently in making their decision.
“I don’t intend to lobby them, but I don’t intend to hide my opinion either.”
Cmdr. Gary Brennan said Parks, who he said was enjoying “a rare day off with his family,” was disappointed Hahn chose not to support his reappointment.
“However, the chief is pleased and very encouraged by the mayor’s guarantee that an independent and merit-based process will be used to decide the issue of his reappointment,” Brennan said.
Brennan added that Parks “stands on his merit and record” as chief of police.
The mayor once again criticized the Police Protective League for its non-stop campaign to oust Parks as the city’s chief and called on the union and Parks’ supporters to stop the rhetoric
The police union recently unveiled “Operation Inform,” an advertising campaign that describes rising crime in Los Angeles in television and radio advertising and through direct mail.
“Chief Parks has said publicly that if crime increases, the chief of police is not doing his job,” union President Mitzi Grasso said in a statement. “Based on the facts, Chief Parks is preventing the men and women of the LAPD from doing their job, and by his own measure, Chief Parks is not doing his job.”
The union’s television spots will begin airing today.
“We don’t need a paid advertising campaign here,” Hahn said. “We need people of the city to engage in a vigorous debate, but one that is constructive and one that allows the Police Commission to do its job.”
Hahn said he was not interested in the problems between the union and Parks, but he was interested in what the individual officers had to say.
“I do care about what officers say when they stop me on the street or when I meet them at roll call,” Hahn said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company