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Parks Suggests Union Misused City Cash

Payments: Officials of Protective League call LAPD chief's claim 'a dishonest statement.'

April 17, 2002|MATEA GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Much of L.A. Police Chief Bernard C. Parks' combative speech to the City Council covered the familiar terrain of his reappointment effort--crime rates, morale, community policing and discipline. But the chief leveled one new blockbuster claim, suggesting that the police union used $3.5 million in city money to campaign against his reappointment.

The Police Protective League received the money during the last year from the city as part of a contract negotiated between the union and Police Department in July 2000 to compensate the league for taking over the representation of officers at internal disciplinary police hearings.

Under the contract, the union will get $6.5 million over 18 months to assist it as it assumes the job of representing officers accused of misconduct, a task that had been handled and paid for by the Police Department.

The city already has begun making those payments, even though the union has been slow to assume the task of defending the officers, lending weight to the chief's questions about how the money is being used. At the same time, the league did set out to raise more than $1 million this year to run an advertising campaign against the chief.

But officials on various sides of the issue and documents relating to it reveal no evidence of a direct link between the payments the union received from the city and the money it used to pay for a television advertising campaign, which the league pulled after one day at the urging of Mayor James K. Hahn.

During his hourlong speech Tuesday, Parks suggested that the money had been used in the union's political campaign because the city began paying the league before the union started defending officers.

"One can only wonder why the Police Protective League was given this largess by the city for doing nothing," he said in his speech. "Was it to give them a war chest to go after me?"

Union officials Tuesday denied that any city money for the representation of officers had been used in the campaign.

"That's a dishonest statement," said Hank Hernandez, general counsel for the league. "We have not spent money allocated to legal defense of officers on this campaign."

The union, which was supposed to begin representing officers accused of misconduct last May, did not take up the job until October, league officials said.

"We had a plan in place to step in and represent officers," said Hernandez. "But it was the department management who kept assigning defense reps."

LAPD Cmdr. Gary Brennan countered that the department continued doing the job because the union hadn't stepped up to the plate.

"The officers need a defense, are entitled to a defense," said Brennan, who added that he believes the league still has not fully taken over the task. "Whether or not the league was ready for the responsibility, we didn't want to leave the officers in the lurch."

According to City Administrative Officer William Fujioka, who negotiated the contract for the city, a dispute about the terms of the contract stalled the transfer of defense representation from the LAPD to the union.

The union felt that it should only have to represent officers at Board of Rights hearings, the most serious level of a discipline hearing.

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