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Valley Perspective

Support Expected Versus Support Earned

Friends presume support for an African American police chief based on race. Actual allegiance is won through his commitment to making life better.

September 27, 1998|BARBARA PERKINS | Barbara Perkins, a resident of Sylmar, is founding president of the San Fernando Valley Section of the National Council of Negro Women

I remember how uncomfortable I felt a year or so ago when I was asked by several of my African American peers to support the nomination of Bernard C. Parks for the position he now holds as the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It did not matter to my friends, it seemed at the time, that I had very positive interactions with another candidate who was not African American. Caught off guard by their assumption that I would support the African American candidate, I raised questions to myself about what felt right and what felt wrong. I reflected then, as I reflect now, on what constitutes principles, credibility and responsibility on the part of those of us who call ourselves community leaders.

Just before Parks' appointment as chief, I stood before the Los Angeles Police Commission at a forum at Mission College in Sylmar and said that it really did not matter to me which of the names from the list of potential candidates being circulated was presented to Mayor Richard Riordan. What was most important to me then, and remains so now, was that people in my community and throughout the city began to feel safe again.

I told then-Police Commission President Raymond C. Fisher that women and girls were at great risk in this city. Sexual assault crimes and rape are daily issues for all women in Los Angeles, regardless of their age, ethnicity, economic status or education. I told Fisher that I hoped whoever the mayor appointed as chief would take a serious and, in particular, a public position on the horrible crime of rape.

Today I am a strong supporter of Chief Bernard Parks and the Los Angeles Police Department. This support was sealed Wednesday night at the community town hall meeting in Van Nuys where Parks, Deputy Chiefs David Gascon and Michael J. Bostic and command officers from Van Nuys, Foothill, North Hollywood, West Valley and Devonshire divisions gave an update on the most recent crime-fighting tactics being used to make our neighborhoods safer.

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This chief has demonstrated in a very short period of time that he is serious about the business of police work. He has articulated his priorities, demonstrated his commitment and begun to implement the type of change that will systematically make life better for residents of the city. I cannot imagine what else would we want from the Police Department.

It is the responsibility of community leaders to be vocal not only when there is trouble or disagreement with our elected or appointed leaders. There is a greater responsibility to talk about what is going right for us as well. We complain that the media only show the negative side of life and issues. There seems to be silence on the part of many opinion leaders who are advocates for communities as to what is positive and moving in the right direction for us.

I have made it my business to understand what the Police Department is doing. It is to my personal benefit as a women, mother of a 10-year-old daughter and officer of the National Council of Negro Women to know how the issue of sexual assault crimes is being addressed by the LAPD. Without hesitation, I volunteered to co-chair with Chief Parks his black community forum. This gives me an opportunity to know firsthand about the progress the department is making and, more importantly, to share with the department reactions or concerns from the community. The responsibility that comes with this position is that I share the information so that others will be just as informed.

As uncomfortable as I was when my African American peers suggested that I should support Bernard Parks because he is black, I am equally as uncomfortable with my white peers who assume that I do support him because he is black. My absolute support for Chief Bernard Parks is because he has earned it.

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