Wednesday, March 27, 2002
Waters, Protestors Confront Police Panel Over Remark by Its President
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and nearly 100 protesters yesterday converged on the Los Angeles Police Commission to call for President Rick Caruso’s resignation in response to accusations that Caruso used a derogatory remark to refer to the congresswoman.
“We’re here to say no matter who it is, little Ricky Caruso or anybody else, they can’t just do whatever they want to do,” Waters, a strong supporter of Police Chief Bernard Parks, said. “We don’t have to be marginalized and dissed by anybody.”
But Caruso was not present at yesterday’s commission meeting, leaving Waters without the face-to-face confrontation she said she wanted.
Without Caruso’s presence, the congresswoman and the protestors, many of whom were relegated to the Parker Center hallways because the meeting room was too small, had to settle for expressing their discontent to the three commissioners present.
“Does this kind of thinking permeate the [Los Angeles] Police Department?” Waters asked. “If it’s alright for the president of the Police Commission to call a congresswoman a bitch, is it alright for the police officers in the community to refer to women as bitches?”
An anonymous letter from someone claiming to be a member of the Los Angeles Police Department said Caruso had referred to Waters as a “bitch” during a Feb. 28 meeting with several police department officials to discuss noise violations at the construction site of his new retail development, The Grove. That letter was sent to several city officials, including the commissioners and Mayor James Hahn, earlier this month.
The controversy comes at a time when the five-member commission is in the process of deciding whether to give LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks a second five-year term. Critics of Caruso say the comment shows that Parks will be unable to get a fair shake in the process if Caruso remains on the commission.
Mayor James Hahn has publicly announced his opposition to a second term for Parks.
Hahn’s office did not immediately return calls for comment. The mayor has not commented publicly on the flap, but Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said last week that Hahn was not going to take any action against Caruso.
Last week council members Nate Holden and Jan Perry held a press conference denouncing Caruso for the comment and calling for his resignation.
Community activist Danny Bakewell, of the Brotherhood Crusade, said the comment is reminiscent of “the good ol’ boy days” of the LAPD when black residents were routinely harassed by police officers simply because they were black.
Bakewell and Waters also criticized the commission for changing its meeting times several times and not allowing sufficient notice so demonstrators could be heard.
“You make it very difficult for us to organize when you have meetings that are called with little notice,” Waters said.
Gunn said Caruso and Commissioner Bert Boeckmann II were not expected to be at the meeting, which was a special meeting called to deal with a statute of limitations issue on a job-related injury case.
But Gunn’s explanation did not satisfy the congresswoman or her supporters.
“He’s a liar,” Waters remarked, before Gunn launched into a second explanation of Caruso’s absence.
Caruso’s secretary said he was on vacation for Easter week and would not return until next week.
Despite Caruso’s absence protestors still marched in front of Parker Center carrying signs that read “Rick Caruso -is that how you talk to your wife” and “Bold, bodacious, and beautiful - but not a bitch.”
Both Waters and Bakewell claimed that Gunn, who attended the Feb. 28 meeting, confirmed to Bakewell and to Councilman Nate Holden that the incident had taken place and Caruso made the comment. Gunn refused to confirm or refute the claims.
“I’m not even going to comment on that,” Gunn said.
Earlier in the day, Perry held a press conference, along with several women from the community, to call for Caruso to step down and to show their support for a second term for Parks.
Perry also introduced a motion at yesterday’s City Council meeting that asked for the officers who attended the meeting with Caruso be brought in front of the City Council in closed session to tell what exactly happened.
Perry asked for immediate consideration of the motion because she said she believed that a decision on the chief’s fate could be made as early as today.
The motion did not get the required 10 votes to be considered yesterday, but it will be considered sometime next week, David Gershwin, spokesman for Council President Alex Padilla, said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company