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City OKs Demotion, Raise for Police Aide : Government: Deal between Chief Williams and Assistant Chief Parks is an apparent attempt to avoid a lawsuit.

October 08, 1994|CARLA RIVERA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an agreement likely to stoke controversy surrounding the top brass at the Los Angeles Police Department, the City Council on Friday approved a deal that will give Assistant Police Chief Bernard Parks a $15,000 raise while he is demoted.

The unusual bargain was struck in an apparent attempt to avoid a threatened lawsuit by Parks that could have proved costly to the city and could have cast the Police Department in a harsh glare at a time when it is being second-guessed in any number of areas, including its handling of the O.J. Simpson case.

Parks, a 29-year veteran, was earning about $128,000 a year as an assistant chief. Under the deal approved Friday, his annual salary will increase to about $143,000, but he will assume the duties of a deputy chief. The demotion is effective Oct. 15.

Chief Willie L. Williams, who initiated the agreement, defended the raise and the demotion, saying an accommodation was necessary to move the department forward.

"I believe a lawsuit would rip this organization inside-out, and it is more important to put this issue to rest," Williams said during a news conference at Parker Center, the Downtown police headquarters. "The Police Department is being blasted for many things, including the O.J. Simpson case, and the last thing we need is another reason to attack us."

Williams also said the dispute was becoming increasingly politicized.

"There were camps in City Hall, camps within the LAPD, camps in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.," he said. "It was not good for the community or the organization."

But he sought to downplay suggestions that he was pressured into an agreement he opposed.

"No one in City Hall or in any other office told the chief what to do or pulled strings," he said. "If that had happened, I wouldn't be standing here as police chief."

The agreement was reached in mediation sessions between Parks and Williams, who in September had announced that he had lost confidence in his second-in-command and would demote him.

Since then, Williams had come under heavy criticism for his handling of the demotion and was being pressured by several City Council members to reach some accommodation.

The chief initially resisted, insisting that he would not knuckle under to "political tampering."

But Williams, according to city officials, subsequently decided that such an agreement might end what had become an increasingly bitter dispute that was ballooning beyond his control.

Still, it was uncertain whether Parks and the chief would be able to lay aside their rancor and work together. Parks was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Williams said Parks would work out of the chief's office, but the chief would not specify duties.

One council member said the agreement may provoke resentment in the department and hamper other department officials who want to make personnel changes.

"If everyone knows that all you have to do is bring a lawsuit to get what you want, then that's what everyone will do," said Councilman Joel Wachs, who with Councilwoman Laura Chick voted against the deal.

Wachs added: "If there are deep-seated, underlying problems that gave rise to this, they will not go away and this will not solve the problems."

But council President John Ferraro said a settlement was necessary.

"I don't view it as a bribe, it's a settlement," he said. "If he had filed a lawsuit, it would have been very difficult to defend, and I feel confident he would have won."

Parks' attorney Skip Miller said his client is pleased that the dispute was solved "amicably and is looking forward to getting back on the job.

"All he wants is to go about his business as an officer of the Police Department," Miller said. "He was not looking for any confrontation or lawsuit. He's a team player and a highly respected officer."

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