Thursday, January 24, 2002
Group Again Calls for New LAPD Chief; Hahn Criticizes Union for Attacks
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
A loosely knit group of community members yesterday called again for a new police chief, this time on the same day Mayor James Hahn sent a letter to the police union president expressing disappointment in the union’s “divisive” attack campaign against current Chief Bernard Parks.
Citing growing crime, reductions in police morale, lack of community policing and too few police officers, the group Change Our Chief of Police expressed its goal of letting Parks’ term expire with the ushering in of a new chief.
“The residents are very alarmed at the increase in violence,” group spokesman and retired LAPD officer Al Ruvalcaba said. “It’s time for change. We are asking that the commission open up the process, in other words deny Parks another five years. Open up the process so that the best possible person can be our next chief of police.”
Other community members working with the group—which is not funded and relies on about 20 volunteers, Ruvalcaba said—criticized Parks for his administration’s lack of community involvement and urged that the Police Commission, Hahn and City Council pay attention to the community when deciding Parks’ fate.
“It’s our police department,” Linda Lockwood, a former community advisory member to the LAPD, said. “It doesn’t belong to Bernard Parks. It doesn’t belong to anybody. It’s collectively our police department. It’s there to protect and serve us.”
Lockwood criticized Parks for abandoning the senior lead officer program and for causing the reduction in police officers in the department, which she said is a result of lowered officer morale and higher attrition rates due to Parks’ management.
Lockwood and Ruvalcaba denied allegations that they were playing the race card and said that public safety was their main concern.
The press conference held by the group outside Parker Center came the same day Hahn sent a letter to the Police Protective League’s president, Mitzi Grasso, criticizing the league’s outspoken attacks on Parks, which included the recent announcement of a “no confidence” vote in the chief.
“For the last month, the Police Protective League has engaged in an unrelenting attack campaign against Chief Parks, apparently in an effort to sway public opinion against him as he considers whether to seek reappointment,” Hahn’s letter read. The attacks against Parks by the league are “divisive and ultimately harmful to the Department,” Hahn wrote.
Hahn urged the league to instead work with Parks to improve public safety, as Grasso and Parks reportedly promised to do when they met with Hahn Dec. 11.
The mayor said he would give his recommendation on Parks to the Police Commission when the time was appropriate.
Parks has indicated that he will seek a second five-year term and has until Feb. 12 to officially declare his intentions. From there, the Police Commission will decide his reappointment. City Council can veto the decision by a two-thirds majority.
Neither Grasso nor Police Commission President Rick Caruso returned calls seeking comment.
Change Our Chief of Police was founded in early December and its first press release listed police league directors Ken Hillman and Peter Repovich as contacts. Their names do not appear on the current release. The union claims no funding for the group and leaders said they only acted as a “conduit” between COCOP and community members upset with Parks.
Ruvalcaba told the MetNews earlier this month that the group would be drafting a plan of action and was hoping to hold several town meetings across the city seeking the community’s input. As of now, no such meetings have been scheduled but the group remains eager to send public comments to the Police Commission before they decide Parks’ reappointment, Ruvalcaba said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company