Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Parks Cries Foul Over Reappointment Process, Urges Council Take Action
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Bernard Parks yesterday accused Mayor James Hahn and the police union of entering into a “conspiracy” to get him out of office, and the Police Commission of just going through the motions of considering him for a second term while backing the mayor’s “campaign” against him despite public promises his review would be merit-based.
Last week the commission voted 4-1 not to reappoint the 37-year department veteran to a second term, a decision Parks said was not based on his merits as the commission had said it would be.
“There is only one standard I do not meet, the political standard, which was not supposed to be part of the process,” Parks told the City Council during a specially arranged presentation.
Parks told the council that when he met with Hahn in January to tell him of his plan to seek a second term, the mayor urged him to take his pension and retire, telling him that he had already secured three votes on the commission against the reappointment and enough votes on the council to block any appeal.
Parks said he refused, saying he would “not be implicit in a conspiracy” that was already in place.
He also criticized the relationship between the mayor and the union, and said the timing of transfer of $3.5 million of city funds to the Police Protective League in return for the union taking over the responsibility of providing legal representation for officers involved in disciplinary hearings seemed suspicious.
Parks said the transfer of the money was orchestrated by the mayor’s office beginning in 2001, with a $1.5 million payment in January. That money was supposed to be used to defend officers in disciplinary hearings, but Parks said the union has not taken over that responsibility as of March.
“Why would the city give this money to the league at this time as they did?” Parks asked. “Was it to give them a war chest to go after me?”
LAPD Sgt. Ray Garvin said a 2001 amendment to the City Charter releases the department from its historical role of paying for the officers’ defense. Instead the city worked out a deal with the union to have the union provide the defense, an agreement that includes a city payment to the union of approximately $6 million over the next several years, according to sources familiar with the memorandum of understanding.
The union has just started sending representation for officers within the last month, Garvin said, but officers with cases that were filed before the charter amendment are still being handled by department-paid representation.
A spokesman for Hahn said the mayor would not comment yesterday on Parks’ presentation to the council.
Parks said that although he realized the reappointment procedures were flawed from the beginning, he continued to make his way through it to expose problems in the process.
“I thought it was absolutely essential to bring out the flaws in the system,” Parks told reporters outside City Hall.
In his 65-minute speech, Parks methodically laid out his accomplishments over the last four and a half years as chief and shifted much of the blame for what critics call his failings and those of the department to decisions made by the mayor, the City Council and the Police Commission.
Blamed by critics for increased crime and decreased officer morale, Parks charged Hahn, the Police Commission and the City Council with making decisions that hampered his ability to correct any problems.
The federal consent decree, Senior Lead Officers, and the flexible work schedule, all things Parks opposed, took so many officers off the street it was unrealistic to believe the smaller patrol force could accomplish what the larger one did, he said. Despite warnings by the department, those moves were made by elected officials and Hahn’s hand-picked commissioners.
“You cannot take police resources off the street in this volume and expect it will not have a negative impact on crime,” Parks argued.
Parks compared the loss of the officers diverted to handling the implementation of the consent decree and to SLOs to losing a total of an area station and an entire patrol division, and noted the implementation of the flexible work schedule, which Hahn promised the police union he would implement after the league endorsed him, reduced the number of available police cars by 20 to 30 percent each day.
“How many lives should be lost to accommodate the police union as payback for a campaign promise, to accommodate a small number of community activists who want the police department at their beck and call?” Parks asked.
Parks’ attorney Gloria Allred said the way the police chief is chosen is “riddled with politics, backroom wheeling and dealing with taxpayer money being used to manipulate public opinion to try to build consensus against the chief.”
“The current selection system is corrupt,” Allred said. “It is a sham and a fraud and an insult not only to applicants for the position, but to the city of Los Angeles.”
Allred, of Allred Maroko & Goldberg, also questioned why there was no written record or recording of the commission’s discussions or deliberations while there was a complete written record of what transpired behind closed doors when the Police Commission was considering whether to reappoint former Chief Willie Williams.
Parks announced last week he was retaining Allred’s firm to represent him during his presentation to the council. Also last week Parks accused the Police Commission of launching a “smear campaign” against him by accusing him of being dishonest in the reappointment process by representing an unofficial performance evaluation written by former Police Commission President Raquelle de la Rocha as the opinion of the entire commission. Parks denies he misrepresented the evaluation.
Parks said he has no immediate legal action planned.
The City Council is scheduled today to vote on whether to assert jurisdiction of the commission’s decision. Ten members of the 15-member council must vote to assert jurisdiction. Ten votes also would be required to overturn the commission’s decision. The council has until Friday to decide.
Parks urged the council to assert jurisdiction and asked the decision of his reappointment be turned over to the city’s Board of Referred Powers, a body that makes decisions when the ordinary powers are conflicted out.
Councilman Nate Holden questioned Parks on why after so much political turmoil and scrutiny he wanted to continue to be the chief of police.
“The reason this job is important to me is because it’s important to this city,” Parks answered.
But the chief said he did not need the job and that his future is secure.
Parks said he did not know if his speech had swayed any council members toward voting to asserting jurisdiction.
The council debated for a full hour over whether to hear from the City Attorney on whether Parks’ presentation would expose the city to liability if he sues. The council failed to get the required 10 votes to consider the motion, splitting down the middle seven to seven.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company