Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Police Commission Votes 4-1 to Reject Parks’ Bid for Second Term
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
In a 4-1 vote the Police Commission yesterday rejected LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks’ request for a second five-year term, calling the LAPD a department under crisis that cannot move forward under an inflexible leader.
“Today we stand here with a decision that may not be liked by all, but will hopefully be accepted by the residents of Los Angeles because it is arrived at by relying on facts...which are beyond dispute; along with this commission’s experience in working with Chief Parks,” Caruso said at a news conference in front of Parker Center to announce the decision.
Parks, the city’s second black chief, immediately denied the commission’s claim that the department was in dire straits and promised to appeal to the City Council to override the panel’s decision.
According to the City Charter, the City Council can take jurisdiction of the commission’s decision if it. can rally 10 votes. Another 10 votes are required in order for the council to overturn the commission’s decision.
“This process has become much too politicized,” the chief argued at a news conference, criticizing Mayor James Hahn for publicly opposing his reappointment. “I believe the facts are crystal clear: For the past five years I have tirelessly filled the leadership void,” Parks said.
The commission’s decision, which ends months of public speculation, comes after a nine-hour-long job interview with Parks and nearly 15 hours of deliberations by the commission.
Caruso said the commission did not believe the chief would be able to change his ways to address the numerous problems that have plagued the department during his term, including low officer morale, a mass exodus of officers, and rising crime.
“We have see no improvement nor a measurable effort to give this commission confidence that the chief will make a sincere commitment to change in these critical areas,” Caruso said.
Commissioner David Cunningham III, a civil rights lawyer and son of former City Council member David Cunningham II, was Parks’ lone supporter on the commission.
“It is my opinion that Chief Parks has a wealth of knowledge and skills that could continue to benefit the city and the department,” Cunningham said.
On Sunday Parks appealed to the public in a letter in the Los Angeles Times’ opinion section entitled “Why I Deserve Another Term as LAPD Chief.”
In his letter, Parks took credit for a drop in crime, making major changes to the LAPD disciplinary system and following the recommendations of the Christopher Commission.
He also defended his management of the widely-publicized Rampart corruption scandal that exploded on the department’s radar screen in 1999, arguing that his Rampart Board of Inquiry identified and recommended solutions to problems within the department long before the city entered into a federal consent decree.
But Caruso gave a laundry list of reasons why Parks, a 37-year veteran of the department, should no longer hold the reins of the LAPD, ranging from a dramatic increase in violent crime in just the last few months to Parks’ failure to stay in touch with the needs of the rank-and-file.
The Police Protective League, which represents the department’s rank-and-file officers, applauded the commission’s decision.
“This decision is the first of many steps toward rebuilding the LAPD,” the PPL said in a statement. “With the Police Commission’s decision, we are on our way toward selecting and establishing new leadership and implementing necessary reforms that will return strength to our department and make Los Angeles a safer place for all.”
The league has been lobbying for a replacement for Parks for months, culminating in a nearly $1 million television ad campaign.
Hahn denied the commission’s decision was yet another victory by the union, which already received its long desired flexible work schedule for patrol officers late last year with the backing of the mayor.
“This is not a win for anyone,” Hahn said at City Hall. “This is a decision that the Police Commission had to make in the best interest of the department and the city.”
Hahn, who handpicked each of the five commissioners, announced his opposition to Parks’ reapppointment earlier this year, angering many of the city’s black leaders who had lent their support during his mayoral campaign.
Caruso denied the decision not to grant Parks another term was influenced by the mayor’s announcement or any outside political pressure.
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who backed Parks, continued to defend the chief in a statement.
“He is a proven reformer, an inspiring leader and a true public servant,” Delgadillo said. “Chief Parks works tirelessly to protect and to serve the residents of the City of Los Angeles and his efforts have resulted in the lowest crime rates in decades.”
Councilman Jack Weiss cautioned that automatically taking a second look at the commission’s decision could draw out the political process unnecessarily.
“If there is not a clear error made, I don’t want to see the city put through more political turmoil,” Weiss argued.
Caruso said the commission will begin a nationwide search for a replacement for Parks once the City Council decides whether to take jurisdiction of the issue.
“The goal is to find absolutely the best possible person to be the chief,” he said.
Parks said he would stay on through the end of his term, Aug. 12.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company