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Council Members, Citizens Renew Call for Liaison Officers

May 02, 2000

LOS ANGELES — Clashing yet again with Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks over the use of community liaison officers for patrol duties, a City Council panel asked Monday for a legal opinion on whether the chief may be ordered to reassign them to their original duties of community outreach.

In a three-hour session marked by sharp exchanges, the council's Public Safety Committee also asked for a report on what other cities are doing and any changes that might improve police-community ties.

All of the members of the panel said they support either restoring the liaison officers to their former duties or some compromise that makes officers more accessible to neighborhood residents.

Parks again defended his decision to redeploy the 168 liaison officers to patrol duty, saying he wants all 9,400 police officers on the force--and not just designated liaison officers--to work closely with the public. The change to patrol duty began in 1997 and was completed last year.

"We have made a great deal of strides in the last year to eliminate what we call a split force, where we had 168 people given the task of community involvement and the other several thousand believed their role was just to do police work," Parks told the panel.

About 20 residents, mostly from the San Fernando Valley, testified that the reassignment of community liaison officers to patrol duty meant the end of close communication and cooperation between their neighborhoods and the police.

"The . . . program is missed and the general public wants it back," said Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn. "It worked."

Parks said that all of the liaison officers now working patrol have pagers that neighborhood residents can use to reach them. He said he is exploring the idea of giving them cell phones for better communications with neighborhood leaders.

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