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Secession Too Big a Risk, Says Ex-Chief


Former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks said Wednesday he opposes San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession, labeling the proposed breakup a financial risk and threat to public safety.

Parks is a Los Angeles City Council candidate, so his position in favor of keeping the city together is not surprising. But secessionists had hoped at one point to secure his endorsement, which many consider valuable because of his law enforcement credentials and growing role as a leader of the African American community.

"Secession is too risky for the city of Los Angeles and particularly the community I'm going to represent," said Parks, who is running for the council's 8th District seat in South Los Angeles.

"There is no guarantee how secure the city will be financially, how secure city jobs will be," Parks added. "I just don't think you can run a city based on promises with no guarantees."

He said he also is worried that a new city would contract out policing to the lowest bidder, instead of paying for the services of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Parks said he plans to formally announce his position today and will concentrate his campaigning against secession in South Los Angeles. But he will not join the anti-secession committee headed by Mayor James K. Hahn.

Parks lost his bid for a second term as police chief after Hahn refused to support him. On Wednesday, he denied that his dispute with the mayor delayed his decision. Parks said he needed time to study the issue.

The Hahn camp welcomed Parks' decisions. "Mr. Parks is a very significant voice," said advisor Kam Kuwata.

Valley secession leader Richard Katz, however, said Parks' position will not add much to the anti-secession effort. "He's running for office. He was fired by the mayor. It's an endorsement, but people see him as being connected to the downtown power structure," said Katz, co-chairman of the Valley Independence Committee.

Katz also said Parks is wrong about any financial and public safety risks. He noted that a study by the Local Agency Formation Commission found a Valley city and the remainder of Los Angeles would not be financially harmed by the split.

A Valley city would have enough money to maintain police services at their current level or increase them, Katz said.

Political scientist Fernando Guerra said Parks' views on secession will likely resonate among African American voters citywide and Valley residents concerned about crime. "I think people who are interested in public safety might be influenced by what the police chief has to say," he said.

Secession supporters have argued that, if a breakup happens, African Americans in the remainder of Los Angeles will gain clout in a smaller city. Parks said he was unconvinced.

"If you have a city that is crippled and unable to generate revenue, you may have more clout, but over less resources," Parks said.

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