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Parks Upbeat on His 4 Years as Police Chief

Politics: He says crime has been cut during his tenure and racial, gender diversity improved.

January 11, 2002|JILL LEOVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With his first term as Los Angeles police chief drawing to a close, and the question of his possible reappointment still up in the air, Bernard C. Parks held a news conference Thursday to tout the accomplishments of his past four years, focusing on crime trends, crime prevention and reform efforts.

Flanked by officers and his command staff, Parks presented his fourth-year-in-office report in front of Parker Center.

He said he wanted to inform the public about changes within the department, but he also made little attempt to conceal the significance of the news conference--in part, a sweeping self-appraisal--to the political drama fast unfolding over his future.

Parks even alluded to the reappointment process in his closing statements, suggesting that he will publicly announce his decision on whether to seek a second term in early February.

The Police Commission, consisting of mayoral appointees, would have three months to support or oppose his reappointment, subject to a City Council veto. Mayor James K. Hahn has not yet said publicly whether he supports the chief's reappointment, which is hotly opposed by the Police Protective League, the union representing rank-and-file officers.

League leaders are concerned that officer morale has plummeted under Parks' leadership, and say the problem is so severe it affects the department's ability to function.

Acknowledging recent increases in crime, Parks argued that long-term trends show that crime is still below the levels of the four years preceding his tenure. He argued that homicide levels have declined 43.9% in his four-year term, compared to the four years before 1997. Assaults also have dropped by 17.9%.

"In order to get a true picture of crime, we must view crime trends over an extended period of time. . . . You cannot look at crime in snippets," Parks said.

Last year, 584 people were killed in Los Angeles, an increase of about 6% from 2000. The number represents the second year of increases, but is about half the record high of 1,096, set in 1992.

Parks also touted his accomplishments in increasing racial and gender diversity among officers, raising disciplinary standards throughout the department, conducting a board of inquiry into the Rampart corruption scandal to address the department's failings, and implementing the myriad reforms of 10 different task forces and study groups.

Department public affairs officers handed out colored pamphlets adorned with an American-flag graphic motif and photographs of the smiling chief.

Asked by one reporter about the union's concerns, Parks was explicit: "We do not talk about anything negative at our news conferences," he said.

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