Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn has decided to oppose Police Chief Bernard C. Parks' bid for reappointment, arguing that Parks has not done enough to fight crime, reform the LAPD, or strengthen relations between police and residents.
A day before Parks announced his decision to seek a second, five-year term, Hahn informed the chief that he would not back him, sources familiar with the conversation said.
The final call on Parks' fate rests with the city's civilian Police Commission, whose members were appointed by Hahn and confirmed by the City Council.
Late Monday afternoon, Hahn shared his decision with a dozen African American community activists, religious leaders and political officials who have been lobbying him to support Parks. Those participants, according to two who were there, tried to talk Hahn out of his decision but left disappointed and angered that the mayor was moving against a chief whose work they admire.
"I'm very, very upset," John Mack, president of the Urban League, said after the meeting.
On Jan. 30, sources said, Hahn told the chief that he was disappointed with the LAPD's lack of progress in implementing a federal consent decree that mandates reforms of the LAPD and in improving community policing. In addition, the mayor expressed concern about the rising crime rate and the number of officers leaving the department, according to people who were told of the meeting by the participants.
Hahn suggested that rather than seek another term, Parks should take credit for a successful career and retire.
Parks delivered his public response 24 hours later, when he announced to a room full of supporters at a Hollywood club that he was seeking a second term as chief. By charter, the city's police chief is limited to two terms. The only other chief covered by that charter provision, Willie L. Williams, was denied a second term.
On Monday, LAPD Cmdr. Gary Brennan said Parks would not comment on the meeting. Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said the mayor had no comment as well.
The mayor's decision to oppose Parks--which he is expected to make public today--puts the chief in an awkward professional and political position. Should the Police Commission, whose members were appointed by Hahn, decide to back the chief over the mayor, Parks would return for another term but be given the task of carrying out the wishes of a chief executive who had publicly urged him to go. Similarly, the mayor's decision creates a difficult choice for the Police Commission, which has vowed to act independently but now must risk antagonizing the mayor who appointed its members or appearing to cave to pressure from the mayor's office.
The commission has said it intends to vote on Parks' reappointment this spring. His term ends in August.
Police Commission President Rick Caruso said Monday that he is interested in the mayor's perspective, but added that he will weigh Hahn's opinion no more heavily than anyone else's.
"'I would certainly like his opinion, mostly because he's the mayor and he's had 20 years of experience working with the chief," Caruso said. "But it's not going to influence how I make my decision, nor do I think he would want it to."
For Hahn, who has said he would refrain on commenting publicly regarding the chief's reappointment until the process had begun, the political implications of his position also are far-reaching.
Hahn and his father--a longtime county supervisor--have enjoyed staunch support from African American voters for decades. Parks, who is African American, also enjoys significant support among those same voters.
In recent weeks, activists, officials and religious leaders in the city's African American communities have been mobilizing campaigns in support of a second term for the chief.
On Monday afternoon, Hahn spent almost two hours explaining his position to a dozen leaders gathered at the Wilshire Boulevard office of basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Those attending included Johnson and his business partner Ken Lombard; county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; Rev. William Epps; Rev. Frederick Murph; Geraldine Washington, head of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP; Danny Bakewell, president of the Brotherhood Crusade; and Bill Elkins, a longtime advisor to former Mayor Tom Bradley. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) participated via speakerphone.
"What disappointment from every segment represented at the table," said Rev. Cecil Murray, who attended the meeting.
Mack said Hahn's decision could prove divisive for the city and will hurt the mayor's relationship with his black constituents.
"I think there's going to be a great deal of anger and, perhaps in some quarters, surprise, and a sense of betrayal, given the tremendous support that Mayor Hahn received from this community," Mack said.