Friday, January 18, 2002
Police Union Officials Say Members Have Voted No Confidence in Parks
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Most Los Angeles rank-and-file police officers have no confidence in Chief Bernard Parks and support their union’s effort to oust him, union leaders reported today.
Continuing a months-long campaign against Parks, Police Protective League officials announced that two-thirds of the union’s 8,200 members returned ballots in the no-confidence vote, and that of those 93 percent want the chief out.
Union President Mitzi Grasso called Parks unable to live up to the promise he made when he first took office in 1997 to reduce crime in Los Angeles.
“Using this measure, one can only conclude that he has failed,” Grasso said, citing a 34 percent increase in murder in the last two years.
“He should do the honorable thing” and resign, Grasso said.
The union president also charged that Parks has destroyed community policing, demeaned officers, and cut resources. She also repeated the league’s longstanding contention that Parks has undermined the department’s effectiveness by destroying officer morale.
“Chief Parks is not a leader, he’s a lemming,” Grasso said.
Parks is nearing the end of his five-year term. He is entitled to a second term under the charter, and must declare by Feb. 12 whether he intends to seek reappointment. The decision is to be made by the Police Commission, whose five members are appointed by Mayor James Hahn and can be removed by him.
The commission’s decision can be reviewed by the City Council on a two-thirds vote. Once it has taken jurisdiction, the council may reject the decision and demand that the commission try again.
If the commission fails to act at all, the reappointment decision is made by the mayor.
The league, which historically has poor relationships with police chiefs, has been a constant critic of Parks. But the union has stepped up the pace of public statements against the chief in recent months.
On Wednesday, African American community leaders charged that the league’s campaign against Parks is racist.
Parks is black. There has never been a black board member of the Police Protective League.
Yesterday, Parks’ backers again lashed out at the union, calling its attempts to get Parks removed divisive and irresponsible.
“The campaign by the Los Angeles Police Protective League to remove Chief Parks from his job reached an all-time low today with the release of results from the league’s no confidence vote,” Councilman Nate Holden said.
He urged the league to stop publicly denouncing Parks, since the decision on whether to reappoint Parks does not involve the union.
“Moreover, the ongoing carping by the LAPPL brings more dishonor to the department than the officers who crossed the line and beat Rodney King,” Holden said.
“I don’t believe that any member of the league, if Chief Parks were not an African-American...would call another chief a rat,” Holden said, referring to Grasso’s “lemming” comment.
Parks, who is out of town, issued a statement about being disappointed with the union. “I will continue to focus on the issue of public safety and protecting and serving the people of Los Angeles,” Parks said.
LAPD Lt. Horace Frank blasted the union for again attacking Parks after Grasso and the chief announced at a Dec. 14 meeting that they would both work together to better serve the people and offices of the Police Department.
“Since this meeting, the league has shown no inclination to honor their promise to the mayor and the community,” Frank said. “Instead, they have continued with their divisive, irresponsible behavior, in an attempt to tarnish the image of the chief of police.”
Joining Frank and Holden at a Parker Center news conference were more than a dozen community members who, Frank said, told the department they wanted to express support for the chief.
Sergio Juarez, a former South Central Los Angeles resident, said he was told several years ago when painting his house that he could “change his house, but he couldn’t change the community” which was ridden with crime.
Juarez considered leaving, he said, but soon noticed the community changing for the better, and he attributed the change to the efforts of Parks.
Another resident of South Los Angeles stepped up to say that the league has no business calling for Parks’ resignation.
“[T]he Protective League does not live in the Los Angeles area, they don’t live here, they don’t pay taxes here, but they want to govern who we have as our chief of police,” Sheila Lee said.
Recent surveys show few of the department’s officers are Los Angeles residents.
Holden called on Hahn to step forward and say that “the decision to reappoint Chief Parks will come from the Police Commission, not the league or any other groups.”
Commission President Rick Caruso underscored the panel’s role in a statement.
“We welcome the views of the Police Protective League and the community in our evaluation of the Chief of Police,” Caruso said. “However, any decision the Police Commission makes will be based on the merits and not the political influence of any one person or group.”
Referring to the council’s authority to take jurisdiction with 10 votes, Councilwoman Jan Perry said there was a “distinct possibility of ongoing debate on this issue” if the commission declines to reappoint Parks.
The union’s numbers suggest that more than half the LAPD’s officers voted no confidence in Parks.
League leaders had already expressed lack of confidence in Parks. The ballot statement to which they asked members to agree was, “I support the League’s vote of no confidence in Chief Parks and I support the League’s demand for Chief Parks’ resignation.”
Grasso said if Parks does seek reappointment, the league will begin circulating petitions calling for his resignation.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company