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LAPD Union Says Poll Shows Vast Majority Oppose Parks

Police: Among officers who responded, 93% voted 'no confidence' in the chief, who is expected to seek a second term.

January 18, 2002|JILL LEOVY and PATRICK MCGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Leaders of the Los Angeles Police Protective League said Thursday that 93% of its members who responded to a poll said they have no confidence in Chief Bernard C. Parks.

The union said that two-thirds of the 8,100 members mailed ballots voted in the poll and that the results were tabulated by an independent firm.

The no-confidence vote was the latest in a series of steps the league has taken to publicize its dissatisfaction with the chief. League President Mitzi Grasso has been calling for Parks' removal since late last year.

Parks is nearing the end of his first five-year term and can be reappointed for one more term. He is expected to formally submit his request for reappointment in early February.

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, who appoints the Police Commission which will play a key role in determining Parks' fate, has said the decision will be based on the chief's performance, not political pressure.

As the decision draws near, more interest groups are taking sides. For example, in a statement released last week and reiterated at a press conference Wednesday, the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, which represents black LAPD officers, defended Parks and sharply criticized the police union.

The Bryant Foundation accused the union of being "determined to turn back the clock to the days of [former LAPD Police Chief] Daryl Gates, when the cowboy mentality dominated."

The union is at odds with Parks over, among other things, his far-reaching changes in the department's disciplinary structure, which have resulted in many more officers being investigated for alleged misconduct than in the past.

In a statement released Thursday, Grasso accused the chief of failed leadership. "With this 'no confidence' vote, the police officers of Los Angeles hope to send a signal to the Police Commission, Mayor and City Council that Chief Parks can no longer lead the LAPD," the statement said.

Shortly after, LAPD spokesman Lt. Horace Frank held a news conference in which he described Parks, who was out of town at a conference, as disappointed with the union's actions. Frank said the vote was divisive.

Also Thursday, Police Commission President Rick Caruso released a written statement in response to the union's announcement, saying the commission would evaluate the chief on several "performance objectives" and would decide his fate "based on the merits and not the political influence of any one person or group."

City Councilman Nate Holden and members of three community groups, representing the city's diverse ethnicities, also spoke Thursday in defense of the chief.

Other City Council members also waded in:

Councilman Dennis Zine, a former director of the police union, said the survey confirms what he has long thought: that the officers do not have enough confidence in the chief to warrant another term in the job.

"He needs to retire with dignity and respect," Zine said. "I respect the years he has put in, but his management style is not working. The officers are afraid about job security. They are afraid to do their job."

Councilman Jack Weiss, however, called for restraint.

"Los Angeles is going through a very significant and at times sensitive process over the next several months if the chief decides to ask for another term," Weiss said. "The important thing for that process is that cool heads prevail and for folks to focus on the issues and ratchet down the tension rather than inflame it."

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