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Parks Details LAPD Reorganization's Phase 2, Says It Will Aid Accountability

September 19, 1997|MATT LAIT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks met with high-level police officials Thursday and detailed the second phase of his department reorganization--a plan, he said, that will put more police officers on the streets and invigorate community policing efforts.

Under the plan, 160 experienced "senior lead" police officers who currently work as community liaisons throughout the LAPD will be moved into the field to patrol and to train junior officers. Additionally, Parks is restructuring the hierarchy at police stations to bring captains closer to patrol operations and investigative functions. The new chief said the changes are aimed at increasing accountability at all levels of the LAPD.

"It's going to be an exciting time," Parks said at a luncheon sponsored by the American Society for Public Administration, referring to changes he had discussed during a morning briefing of LAPD captains. "We need to get all department entities involved in the most vital part of our job, which is community-based government."

Parks, who has been on the job for about six weeks, spent much of the day meeting with community and civic leaders, explaining his vision for the "new LAPD" and asking for the public's support and assistance in fighting crime.

In addition to the organizational restructuring, Parks also disclosed that he plans to:

* Eliminate compressed work schedules within the next two months if union officials fail to present a viable work schedule. He said the union's proposals on the issue so far "haven't been meaningful."

If Parks rules out compressed work schedules of any kind, ending a pilot program in several divisions that is popular with officers because it allows them to work three 12-hour days a week, he is certain to come under fire from union officials and the rank and file who have threatened possible protests and job actions.

* Start in October an ambitious program modeled after a New York City police effort that uses up-to-the-minute crime statistics to identify problem areas and better deploy resources. The LAPD program, which is tentatively named Focus Accountability Strategy and Teamwork, or FAST, will first be used in the San Fernando Valley and implemented citywide by January.

Parks said his restructuring, in part, has been done with the strategy in mind. "This will help us with accountability," he said.

Shortly after Parks was appointed by Mayor Richard Riordan in July to become the LAPD's 52nd chief, he came out with the first phase of his reorganization. At that time, he shuffled dozens of jobs to centralize his authority and move closer to the officers in the street. He cut three vacant assistant chief posts, established an internal ombudsman position, and created a department commander post responsible for running the LAPD during nights, weekends and times when the chief is off-duty.

Parks said that many of his ideas on community policing and accountability have come from former LAPD Chief Ed Davis, who was considered by many to be an innovator in police work.

"We were doing some of this many, many years ago," Parks said. "Somehow we got away from it."

Since becoming chief, Parks has largely enjoyed a honeymoon with the department, the community and the city's political leaders.

In East Los Angeles on Thursday morning, Parks was introduced to a standing ovation by about 500 residents at a reception held in his honor and sponsored by the Puente Learning Center.

"This community is here to say we support you," Sister Jennie Lechtenberg told Parks. Last weekend, during a parade in the same community, Parks was enthusiastically greeted by applause, cheers and shouts of "El Jefe."

Such affection for the chief, however, may be short-lived among some.

Police union officials said Thursday they were not pleased by Parks' comments on compressed work schedules. Dave Hepburn, president of the Los Angeles Protective League, said he was trying to remain optimistic but believes that the chief's actions show a lack of "good faith" in his negotiations with them. "I haven't seen a lot of flexibility on the part of the department right now," he said.

Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Laura Chick, who chairs the city's Public Safety Committee, said she was upset that she had not been briefed on the details of the second phase of Parks' reorganization.

"No one in the LAPD organization has deemed it important enough to contact [me], . . . either in writing or on the phone, and share this important information," she said. "It's unfortunate."

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