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Council Looks Into Police Reassignments


Clashing yet again with Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard 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.

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.

The committee members all said they support either restoring the senior lead officers to their former duties, or some compromise that makes the department's officers more accessible to residents.

Parks again defended his decision to redeploy the 168 liaison officers, saying he wants all 9,400 police officers to work closely with the public and needs senior lead officers to help train new patrol officers. The change 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 who were 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 the senior lead officers to patrol meant the end of close communication and cooperation between their neighborhoods and the police.

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

Lori Dinkin, president of the Valley Village Homeowners Assn., said, "I am truly shocked at what I see as an autocratic man who will not listen to the public."

Parks also said all of the senior lead officers now working patrols have pagers that neighborhood residents can use to reach them, and he is exploring also giving them cell phones for better communications with neighborhood leaders.

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