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Riordan Said to Favor Parks for Police Chief

LAPD: Sources say mayor is impressed by ideas and skills of deputy chief. Kroeker still a formidable candidate.


As the Los Angeles Police Commission presses ahead with its search to replace Police Chief Willie L. Williams, sources close to Mayor Richard Riordan, who ultimately will select the LAPD's new leader, say he now is inclined to tap Deputy Chief Bernard C. Parks for the vital and coveted job.

That represents a shift in Riordan's preference--or at least, a shift in the speculation about his preference. Although Riordan publicly touted Parks for the interim chief job, he has long spoken glowingly of Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker. Because of that, many LAPD insiders and Riordan associates have assumed he would back Kroeker for the department's top job.

But sources say Riordan and Parks, whose relationship dates back years, have spoken a number of times in the two months since the Police Commission voted not to renew Williams' contract. According to those sources, Riordan has come away from the sessions--including a long talk at the mayor's official residence in Hancock Park--impressed with Parks' command of the department and the issues facing it.

Among other things, the two have discussed policing and management philosophies and LAPD staffing. Sources say Riordan has warmed both to Parks' ideas and to his forcefulness.

"They are managers," one person who knows both men said. "The more they talk, the more the mayor has been impressed."

Such impressions count. Unlike selection of an interim chief--a decision that rests with the city's Police Commission--picking the next permanent head of the LAPD is a matter left to the mayor.

Under City Charter rules adopted by voters in 1992, the Personnel Department will evaluate the candidates for chief and produce a list of six finalists. From that list, the Police Commission will tap three and submit their names, ranked in order of preference, to Riordan.

The mayor may select any one of the three. But if he is not satisfied with the three names forwarded to him, he can ask the commission to send another slate; if he still is not satisfied, he can select any of the applicants.

Effectively, that gives Riordan the chance to mull over an unlimited number of possible candidates until he gets to one he feels comfortable backing. The nominee then must be confirmed by the City Council.

Parks, who is traveling to New York next week as part of a group that includes top LAPD brass and Riordan's leading public safety aides, is benefiting from the high-level backing of some of the mayor's closest advisors. They include lawyer Bill Wardlaw, who is Riordan's best friend and closest confidant, and Assistant Deputy Mayor Joe Gunn, a trusted City Hall insider who oversees law enforcement issues for the mayor.

Sources say Wardlaw has long championed Parks, and Gunn--who, like Parks, is a protege of retired Chief Edward M. Davis--lately has been lobbying hard for Parks to take over the Police Department.

Parks, who was close to the top job in 1992 before being passed over for Williams, declined to comment on his meetings with Riordan or his prospects for selection.

"I'm very pleased that the mayor has shown faith in me," the deputy chief said in an interview. "I'm fully willing to go through the process that the commission puts together and to let the competition go forward."

Despite growing support for Parks inside the mayor's office and among his confidants, there are months to go, and Kroeker remains a formidable candidate.

Backers, including Police Commissioner Herbert Boeckmann Jr., have been calling key officials and trying to drum up support for their man. What's more, Kroeker remains the favorite of many rank-and-file police officers. A recent straw poll by the police union showed that 75% of the officers who completed ballots favored Kroeker's selection.

Deputy Chief David J. Gascon also is considered a longshot candidate for the job, though his support is less strong than that of either Kroeker or Parks.

Meanwhile, a smattering of outsiders have sent out feelers regarding their interest. The most closely watched include former LAPD Deputy Chiefs Lawrence Fetters and William Rathburn, though former New York Police Commissioner William Bratton still looms as a dark-horse candidate, given Riordan's often expressed admiration for the NYPD's approach to crime-fighting. So far, none of those candidates has attracted much support at City Hall.

That has left most attention focused on Parks and Kroeker.

Riordan declines comment beyond noting that he believes Parks and Kroeker both are experienced, valued leaders of the LAPD--and that either is qualified to serve as chief of police. Behind the scenes, however, Riordan has been reaching out to Parks.

Just last week, when the Police Commission was considering whether to make Parks interim chief, the mayor pulled out his heavy lobbying artillery on Parks' behalf. Commissioners heard from a variety of community leaders, including Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), who weighed in on Parks' behalf and at Riordan's request.

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