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Commentary

Why I Deserve Another Term as LAPD Chief

April 07, 2002|BERNARD C. PARKS

By enacting City Charter reforms in 2000 that define the term of office for the chief of police, the citizens of Los Angeles stated their interest in the process for appointment and reappointment. These citizens deserve to know all that is being considered by the Board of Police Commissioners.

When I became chief in August 1997, the Los Angeles Police Department had come through a decade of turmoil, including the Rodney King incident; a riot; the Christopher Commission on police reform; the O.J. Simpson case, which included the Mark Fuhrman incident and a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation; the highest crime levels in city history; a peak in violence related to crack cocaine; unprecedented growth in the LAPD; and significant growth in L.A.'s population.

Unfortunately, the LAPD's leadership environment did not successfully manage these issues. When I became chief, I implemented changes to fill the leadership void and correct the failings of previous years. Most notable were my decisions to change the organizational structure that had been in place since the 1970s. The new structure allows all top officers direct access to the chief, enhancing communication and accountability.

I also focused on the LAPD's primary responsibility to reduce crime and the fear of crime. New standards of accountability for managing crime and community partnerships were introduced to area and division commanding officers. During my administration, the city experienced its lowest crime rate in 30 years; 75% of L.A. residents report feeling safe in their communities, according a March poll by The Times.

Each recommendation of the Christopher Commission became a priority of mine. Significant changes continue to be made to the disciplinary system, which for years stood as an obstacle to the development of real trust between the department and the community. For the first time in our history, citizens know that each of their complaints is taken seriously and investigated. The effect has been a resurgence in public confidence in the department and more courteous and professional performance by our officers. Today, two-thirds of L.A. residents report they are satisfied with the performance of the LAPD, according to The Times' March poll.

I also implemented models for what I termed the ideal area/ideal basic car, which expanded the responsibilities for community partnership to all officers at area stations rather than just those assigned to community relations or as senior lead officers.

When an LAPD investigation in 1999 exposed corruption in the Rampart Division, I convened the Rampart Board of Inquiry, which identified and recommended solutions for problems in systems, personnel and procedures. Most of these were being successfully addressed long before the city and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to the consent decree, which was based substantially on the Board of Inquiry report.

We have embraced this consent decree and, according to independent monitors, are substantially in compliance with its recommendations for reform. The LAPD has implemented a risk management system that identifies problem officers through performance and complaint tracking. All "risk management incidents" are thoroughly investigated, and some, such as the use of force, have declined.

Too much of the discussion about my reappointment has been the rhetoric of special interests like the police union. We can't allow such agendas or union politics to drive the selection process for chief. The decision must be based on facts and merit. When that is done, my record and accomplishments offer compelling support for my reappointment. The institutionalization of reform requires continuity of leadership. The lengthy process of selecting another chief would create a void that would find the department backsliding on critical activities.

I look forward to a future of improved working relationships inside and outside of the department; more public confidence in the LAPD; better community and government partnerships; and an LAPD with a reputation as an organization in which employees strive to perform to their highest potential in service to the community.

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Bernard C. Parks is chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

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