Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Hahn Presents Plan to Police Panel to Make Senior Lead Officers Fulltime
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
Mayor James Hahn outlined his plan to the Police Commission yesterday to fully reinstate the Senior Lead Officer program, but most of the community leaders and residents present at the meeting just wanted to express their support for police Chief Bernard Parks.
Hahn’s plan, which he said could be implemented by May, would fully reinstate the Senior Lead Officer program which was abandoned by Parks after he became chief but was partially reinstated in 2000.
The program has been a major bone of contention between Hahn and Parks, with Hahn using Parks’ opposition as a reason for not supporting a second term by the chief.
Extra tension was added at the meeting due to the commission’s current task of evaluating Parks for a second term as chief.
Hahn has continually said the program would reduce the growing crime rate in the city, since the senior lead officers act as liaisons between communities who experience crime first-hand and the LAPD.
Currently, the officers spend on average three to four days a week doing traditional SLO duties, like fielding and responding to community complaints, and the rest doing patrol, Lt. Horace Frank said.
The new guidelines would assign SLOs to full-time duty without assigning them to patrol, and would provide them with separate offices to conduct their work.
Hahn, whose ushering in was met with “boos,” spoke of one community member who he said told him, “By taking 168 SLOs off the streets, the police department lost thousands of eyes and ears in our neighborhoods.”
However, the 168 SLOs haven’t gone anywhere; they’re just SLOs part-time now, Frank said.
Hahn’s plan also calls for a single commander to oversee the officers citywide and for the officers to write monthly summaries of their progress.
Frank said the LAPD would review the plan and send a recommendation to the Police Commission in 30 days.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, in a letter read by a staff member, told Hahn he wasn’t sure how the mayor would expand the program, but said the SLO program is currently in need of reform.
“As I have expressed repeatedly, there is no clear connection between improved public safety and the current design of the SLO program,” Thomas said.
He added that the program in many areas acts as a private security force for neighborhood leaders who are “connected.”
“This is not authentic community-based policing,” he said.
Councilman Nate Holden, who attended the commission meeting instead of the City Council meeting, said more police officers and not necessarily more senior lead officers is the solution to solving the city’s crime problems.
A member of the public who did not give his name, went to the public lectern and broke into tears when he said two people he knew were killed late last month in his neighborhood despite the fact that SLOs were there.
After several community members spoke in support of Hahn’s proposal to fully reinstate the program, hundreds of African-American community members wishing to express their support for Parks started becoming restless.
When several of the white community members who spoke in support of Hahn’s proposal left when the public discussion turned to Parks, one elderly black woman was heard saying, “Oh, they don’t want to hear this.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, a strong Parks supporter, said her community felt violated that Hahn gave his opinion before the Police Commission made their decision.
Bishop Charles Blake, who last month refused donations from Hahn to his West Angeles Church, calling them bribes for silence, marched with hundreds of other Parks supporters, many from South Los Angeles, into City Hall with cries of “Five more years for Parks!”
“Morale is up in the community because Parks holds officers accountable for their actions,” Blake told the commission.
He added that “Los Angeles police reform needs a tough top cop, not a political power [like Hahn].
“We watched on Sunday night a special on Rosa Parks. Now, we need another person named Parks.”
Councilwoman Jan Perry also came out in support of the chief calling him a “confidence builder” and “advocate for the community.”
Throughout the meeting, critics questioned the impartiality of the members of the commission, who will decide Parks’ fate and were appointed by Parks’ attacker, Hahn.
Rick Caruso, chair of the commission, told them: “We are committed to a fair and open process. If the mayor doesn’t like our decision, I’ve said it publicly, he can fire me.”
A protest rally is scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 9 at Caruso’s “Grove” shopping mall project at 3rd Street and Fairfax.
“Come and join us in showing our outrage at the attempts by Mayor Hahn, the Police Protective League, and certain police commissioners to hijack and control the process being used to evaluate Chief Parks,” the flier says.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company