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The Parks Decision

Police Commission Rejects Parks

LAPD: Chief's bid for a second term is denied on 4-1 vote. Wide majority of City Council says that decision should stand.

April 10, 2002|JILL LEOVY and MITCHELL LANDSBERG | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Los Angeles Police Commission rejected Chief Bernard C. Parks' bid for a second five-year term Tuesday, saying he had failed as a leader and bore responsibility for a rising crime rate, a decline in officer morale and a "profound crisis of confidence" in a department once considered among the nation's best.

The 4-1 vote by the commission came after lengthy deliberation and appeared likely to end Parks' defiant struggle to stay in office despite opposition from Mayor James K. Hahn, the police union and others.

The City Council still could override the commission's decision, and Parks pledged to "stay the course" and continue to fight for his job. Only three of 15 council members, however, said they were inclined to vote for retaining the chief, who would need a two-thirds majority to overturn the commission vote.

Speaking to reporters after the commission announced its vote, Parks, 58, said he was disappointed but "very, very proud of my service."

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 11, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Photo of Chief Parks--A caption accompanying a photo of Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks in Wednesday's Section A incorrectly said he was walking to a Police Commission session. He was on his way to a news conference after the commission voted not to give him a second term.

"My record and my accomplishments offer a compelling support for my reappointment," he added. "There is still much to be done,"

The panel's decision was a victory for Hahn, whose public call for a new chief was the most dramatic move of his young administration. But the rejection of Parks could also cost Hahn long-term political support among African Americans. Some black leaders said Tuesday they never again will back Hahn.

In announcing the decision, Police Commission President Rick Caruso acknowledged that it "may not be liked by all, but will hopefully be accepted by the residents because it is arrived at by relying on facts, on those things which can be measured, can be gauged, can be assessed and weighed."

Although he praised Parks, the city's second African American police chief, for making the department more diverse and for demanding discipline of his officers, Caruso described the chief as an inflexible and remote leader who had crippled officer morale. That, he said, had driven police veterans from the department and put a severe crimp on recruiting.

The department is now 1,100 officers short, he said, and the shortfall may have contributed to a sharp increase in violent crime in the first three months of this year.

"Today, the Los Angeles Police Department is in crisis, a department losing officers at an alarming rate," Caruso said. "Trust and confidence between those in uniform and their chief has been mortally wounded. This department, similar to all organizations, needs a leader who is demanding but fair, accepts responsibility and seeks solutions, who is capable of energizing and motivating the men and women in the field."

In an interview with The Times, Caruso went further. He accused Parks of being "less than forthcoming" with the commission and cited two examples. Once, he said, Parks tried to circumvent a commission decision to change police officer work schedules. More recently, he said, Parks submitted to the commission a performance evaluation about himself that members believed was misleading.

Parks strongly denied having been untruthful.

If the City Council does not override the commission's decision, Caruso said, the board will probably begin a national search for a successor for Parks. Caruso added, however, that he hopes a new chief could be found within the LAPD's ranks.

Several names of potential successors to Parks have already surfaced. Among those considered possibilities are Portland, Ore., Police Chief Mark Kroeker, a longtime LAPD commander, and Sacramento Chief Arturo Venegas Jr. Both men were considered for the LAPD job in 1997, but were beaten out by Parks.

Within the 8,900-officer department, Deputy Chiefs David Gascon, David Kalish and Scott LaChasse are considered potential candidates.

Hahn praised the commission for conducting "a full and fair process," but was careful not to express relief that the panel decided to follow his advice.

"This is not a win for anyone," the mayor said during a news conference in his office. "This is a decision that the Police Commission had to make in the best interests of the department and the city.

"They based their decision on the merits--not on politics, not on pressure, not on intimidation, but on the facts that were before them," Hahn added.

Parks became Los Angeles' 52nd police chief in 1997, immediately following the troubled reign of Chief Willie L. Williams. Although Parks was credited with carrying out significant reforms, his term was marred by increasingly bitter clashes with the rank and file and by a scandal surrounding alleged abuses by an anti-gang unit in the Rampart Division.

Hahn announced in early February that he would not support Parks' bid for a second term because he was unhappy with the chief's record on crime, reform and community policing.

Parks said Tuesday that he was "very disappointed" that the mayor had spoken out before the commission had determined the criteria by which he would be judged.

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