Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Black Police Officers’ Group Alleges Racism in Union’s Opposition to Parks
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation President Sgt. Ron Cato said yesterday it is time for the racist culture of the Los Angeles Police Protective League to be exposed in the league’s attempt to remove Chief Bernard Parks from office.
Cato, whose organization represents African American Los Angeles law enforcement employees, said that more than 300 people representing LAPD minority organizations and community groups are expected to attend a news conference today to express outrage over the league’s opposition to a second term for Parks.
“It is clear that the League has lost their purpose, objectivity, and sense of responsibility as an employee union,” Cato said in a statement. “They are determined to turn back the clock to the days of Daryl Gates when the cowboy mentality dominated the way they did police work, and the high morale of the police department was based on officers’ ability to observe the code of silence.”
Parks, whose term expires Aug.16, has said he will announce whether he will seek a second term Feb. 1. Under the city charter, the police chief may serve a maximum of two five-year terms. Parks is required to announce his decision by mid-February.
The five-member civilian Police Commission then has three months to respond to his request. The City Council may veto the commission’s decision.
In a Dec. 28 letter the union’s Board of Directors urged its membership of rank-and-file officers to give a no confidence vote for Parks—an action that may lead to the league calling for Parks’ resignation.
“Chief Parks has failed our city and he has failed his own police officers,” union President Mitzi Grasso wrote on behalf of the board. “Upon assuming office, Bernard Parks promised to make Los Angeles the safest big city in the nation. In fact, he asked that, above all, he should be judged by his performance in reducing crime in Los Angeles.”
“By his own standards, Chief Parks is a failure,” Grasso continued. “He has failed in virtually every area critical to the success of the LAPD, from recruitment to achieving disciplinary reform.”
The results of the vote are expected to be released by the league tomorrow.
Cato said in a statement that the league’s recommendation for a no-confidence vote was “the latest example of their determination to achieve their self-serving and political objectives at all cost, even if it means destroying the Department and racially polarizing its members.”
“We want the people of this City to know that the League and their wayward bunch of ultra-right wing directors do not speak for all employees at this Department,” Cato wrote.
According to a Nov. 18 department report, African American sworn personnel made up 13.6 percent of the department, making black officers the second largest minority, behind Hispanics. The report shows 1,223 African American sworn LAPD officers.
There are “more than 600” foundation members, according to the organization’s website. The figure includes civilian personnel and officers in other law enforcement agencies, meaning that membership accounts for fewer than half of black LAPD officers.
Despite the number of black LAPD officers there has never been a black member of the union’s Board of Directors, Cato said, something he attributes to the racism he said is rampant in the league.
Cato said the league’s response is black members don’t run hard enough to get elected. But he contended that white members turn out in droves to vote against black candidates.
“That just shows you the racist culture,” he said. “They need to be exposed.”
Cato also accused the league of creating a culture that resists any meaningful reform, discouraging police officers from engaging in proactive of observational police work, and encouraging officers to leave the department by running ads from other departments seeking trained LAPD officers in the union’s The Thin Blue Line newspaper.
The league also continues to blame the minority community for the Rodney King incident while refusing to admit that the involved officers did anything wrong and sees the investigation of any other involved officers in the Rampart scandal as a persecution by Parks, while continuing to blame Rafael Perez for the entire scandal, Cato said.
League officials did not return calls for comment.
Dueling News Conferences
Today’s press event is the latest in a string of dueling news conferences over Parks’ performance and possible reappointment, focusing mostly on the race issue.
In November the league released the results of a survey of its members on Parks’ performance. The survey results were presented as a report card that gave Parks a grade of C for integrity, D grades for trustworthiness and communications, and F grades for innovation/proaction and collaboration.
Days after the release of the results, key figures in the Los Angeles black political community held their own press event calling on the police union to stop “bashing” Parks.
Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Diane Watson, both Los Angeles Democrats, and City Council members Nate Holden, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Jan Perry, warned of racial discord if nothing is done to change the union’s public assaults on Parks.
And a Dec. 28 press conference held to announce the league’s recommendation to its members that they cast votes of no confidence in Parks sparked media events throughout the day, including speeches by LAPD officials and Holden. Holden asked why the league was calling for Parks’ resignation and had not called for the resignation of previous chief Daryl Gates, who was at the helm during the Rodney King era.
Holden defended community efforts stand up for Parks.
“The fact of the matter is you can’t have an opponent attack the chief and you don’t defend him,” Holden told the MetNews. “The chief is in a position that he can’t defend himself.”
If the league does call for Parks’ resignation, Holden said, he is prepared to stand by the chief.
Parks, a founding member of OJB, is not expected to attend today’s news conference.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company