Thursday, January 17, 2002
Black Coalition Calls Police Union Racist, Urges Second Term for Parks
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
A group of African American Los Angeles police officers and community activists yesterday accused the Police Protective League of dividing the city and the department with its racist behavior and called for Chief Bernard Parks to be reappointed despite the league’s opposition.
“They are dividing the police department and recklessly attempting to destroy this city in their attempt to remove Chief Parks from office,” Sgt. Ron Cato, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, said of the league.
The Police Protective League, a union representing the more than 8,300 rank-and-file Los Angeles Police Department officers, has become increasingly critical of Parks in recent weeks as the debate over whether the chief should be reappointed heats up.
Parks’ term expires Aug. 16. He has until mid-February to declare whether he is seeking reappointment to a second term. The city charter limits police chiefs to two five-year terms.
The Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, named after an early black LAPD officer killed in the line of duty, is an organization of African American sworn and civilian law enforcement personnel in the LAPD and other agencies in the county. It historically has been at odds with the Police Protective League, which has never had a black board member and which, in the foundation’s view, has embodied an LAPD culture of racism.
Cato charged the league with continuing to support white officers whose actions were disparaging to minorities or racially insensitive. He said the league supported a white police officer who shot a black motorist to death, even when the evidence showed the shooting to be unjustified. He also charged the league with “vigorously defending former LAPD Detective Mark Furhman, who made disparaging remarks about minority officers and used ‘n-----s’ to refer to African-Americans.”
“The Police Protective League is racist and Afro-phobic,” Cato concluded.
The foundation president also accused league management of continuing to blame the black community for the changes and reforms imposed on the police department as a result of the Rodney King incident while refusing to publicly admit that any of the officers involved in the incident were in the wrong.
League officials did not return calls for comment.
In the predominantly black South Central neighborhood where campaign signs for Mayor James Hahn are still displayed in front yards, the nearly 100 activists said it was time to put pressure on Hahn, who was strongly backed by the African American community in the last election, to keep Parks in office for a second term.
“We put you in office,” Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, said. “ You owe us. You’re going to be a one-term mayor if you don’t deliver.”
A spokeswoman for Hahn denied the mayor would bend to politics in the chief’s possible appointment.
“Mayor Hahn will make this decision based on the chief’s merits and not political pressure,” Hahn spokeswoman Julie Wong said.
The five-member civilian Police Commission can reappoint Parks without the mayor’s signature, but if the commission fails to act within the statutory period allowed by the city charter, the decision is automatically forwarded to Hahn. Members of the Police Commission were appointed by Hahn can be fired at will.
Activists contended that their support was not based on the color of Parks’ skin, but his ability to lead the department.
“We stand by Chief Parks not because he’s black, but because he’s right,” Khalid Shah, executive director of Stop the Violence, said.
The activists also applauded Parks’ tough disciplinarian approach to running the department, an approach the union has continued to criticize.
“We cannot have police officers with all the power they have to go out there without gatekeepers and checks and balances,” Cato said. “If he’s doing his job, put the man back on for five more years.”
Tony Muhammad, spokesman for the Nation of Islam, compared the LAPD to a wayward child who is just experiencing discipline for the first time, something he said the department is experiencing for the first time under Parks.
“They can’t adjust,” Muhammad said.
“When [Daryl] Gates was in office the policeman was happy and the community was sad,” Tony Muhammad, spokesman for the Nation of Islam, said. “With Chief Parks the community is happy, but the policeman is sad. We need to find a happy medium.”
LAPD Lt. Horace Frank said he is sure Parks is aware of the outpouring of support from the black community, but added that the department receives numerous calls daily from individuals and groups of all races telling the chief “to keep hanging in there.”
“What is very distracting is the divisive comments made by the league,” Frank said, adding that the department has far greater things to worry about.
“We would most prefer to focus on the issues as opposed to the divisive tactics and behavior by the league or others,” Frank said. “It takes away from the valuable time and effort spent on focusing on the issues.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company