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Parks Touts Changes Since '91 King Beating

LAPD: At an anniversary discussion, police chief also says there will always be some problem officers.

March 04, 2001|KURT STREETER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the 10th anniversary of the Rodney King beating Saturday, LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks touted the changes since then in his department, but said no police force can entirely rid itself of scandal or corruption.

"We will always have people who will periodically go beyond authority," Parks said at a USC discussion, referring to his own officers. The event marked the anniversary of the King beating, which took place in the San Fernando Valley on March 3, 1991.

Parks, currently at the center of debate over the scope and pace of change in a department repeatedly stung by scandal, emphasized his reform record. And though admitting that there are still flaws in his department, he contended that the LAPD's professionalism and responsiveness to the community are stronger than ever.

Parks was joined on the panel--co-hosted by the Black Journalists Assn. of Southern California--by civil rights attorneys Melanie Lomax and Connie Rice, as well as police watchdog Merrick Bobb. Bobb was deputy counsel for the Christopher Commission, the task force that examined the LAPD after the King beating and offered a blueprint for reforms.

The chief said most of the changes recommended by the commission have been implemented. Parks said he has moved forward with substantial reforms, most meant to boost internal oversight and to strengthen discipline.

He bristled Saturday at the agreement by Los Angeles officials to a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department, a move that adds federally mandated outside oversight to his department.

But each of the panelists, and many in the audience, said they do not believe that the LAPD's reform efforts have gone nearly far enough.

"The last 10 years did not produce the amount of reform the Christopher Commission contemplated," Bobb said. He called the consent decree "the last best chance" to establish deep change in the LAPD, long criticized as being rigidly authoritarian and out of touch with the general population.

Bobb said the consent decree's emphasis on openness and close examination of data would boost the chances for significant reform.

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