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Panel Wants More Details on Plan to Unify Police Agencies

LAPD: Council committee isn't ready to approve chief's proposal to combine city's various forces, but directs them to cooperate with his study.

January 27, 1998|MATT LAIT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council's Public Safety Committee on Monday withheld its support for Police Chief Bernard C. Parks' proposal to unify all city-funded police agencies under the LAPD, but gave him the go-ahead to conduct a comprehensive study on the issue.

The panel directed the general managers of other city police forces, including airport police and park rangers, to cooperate with Parks' "one city, one police department" analysis.

"We should have a universal policing strategy for the city," Parks told the three-member committee. "There should be a much more coherent plan for public safety."

Parks wanted the committee to approve "in concept" the idea of consolidation, but panel members said they couldn't sign off on the proposal until further details are provided.

Councilman Mike Feuer said it was premature to embrace Parks' proposal.

The Los Angeles Police Commission, the department's civilian oversight panel, approved the consolidation concept last week, but also requested a detailed study.

Under Parks' proposal, the LAPD would absorb 539 officers and security guards by merging with law enforcement agencies now patrolling city parks, the port, the airport, housing projects and municipal offices. The consolidation would occur either through outright mergers or service contracts, in much the same way that the department absorbed the duties of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's police.

Parks contends that the proposal could save the city a significant amount of money through elimination of duplicate administrative functions and overhead. Moreover, he said consolidation would improve training, enhance public safety and eliminate overlapping jurisdictional problems.

LAPD officials have complained that some of the city's police agencies have been reluctant to share information with them on budgets and other administrative and personnel matters. The public safety committee's action ordered the general managers of all those agencies to cooperate with the LAPD study.

Councilwoman Laura Chick, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said she wants Parks to explore whether it is possible to obtain such cost savings and service improvements without consolidating all the police agencies under the LAPD.

"Are there other ways to go about fixing the problems that you've suggested?" Chick asked.

The LAPD has long sought to bring the city's other police agencies under its umbrella. Last year, former Chief Willie L. Williams made a similar pitch, but was rebuffed by the Police Commission and the City Council. Parks' proposal is strikingly similar to Williams' but appears to be gathering more support. Some city officials say it is because they have more confidence in Parks' administrative abilities than they did in those of his predecessor.

Last week, Mayor Richard Riordan said through a spokesman that he supported the concept but wanted to see the LAPD's study before making a decision.

Some city officials, however, are not impressed by Parks' plan. Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr. last week called the proposal a "badge grab" by Parks.

Julie Butcher, the general manager of the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest associations of city workers, said she was surprised the LAPD was considering absorbing employees from other city agencies when its own civilian employees are dissatisfied.

"It's not a happy time to be a civilian in the Police Department," Butcher said. "The Police Department must clean up its own act first."

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