By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The final key recommendation never implemented, says Bobb, was ”an inspector general who has had the power and authority to act independently of the chief of police.“
Chief Parks’ Board of Inquiry report is now in the hands of the Police Commission. It is extremely detailed and responsive to some of the problems within the department. But it‘s also a transparent attempt by the chief to pass the buck and lay blame on a ”mediocre“ middle management, to limit the investigation almost solely to the Rampart Division and to, above all, fend off any outside investigation. What the report does not ask is how deep, wide and high the abuse was known within the department, and what exactly Parks had been doing for the past six years while his troops were playing Terminator, during which time Parks was either in charge of Internal Affairs or the chief of police.
The Christopher Commission report looked at the very top of the organization down to the very bottom, and looked closely at leadership issues, Mader points out. ”This [Parks] report fails to go into whether certain policies promulgated from the top have had an impact on Rampart. But how could anyone have expected that they would look at these issues if they’re the ones writing the report?“ Such highly political issues will have to be examined if an investigation by the Police Commission and I.G. is to have validity.
The Police Commission has vowed to conduct such an inquiry, but many wonder if it is capable. Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, a past president of the Police Commission, recently voiced what has become a growing consensus: ”There‘s been so much silence on the part of this commission -- which is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the public. In the face of so much corruption, it’s going to be hard for the public to believe they even have the ability to engage in proper oversight.“
The commission recently demonstrated a modicum of backbone when it voted 3-2 to defy Parks and find ”out-of-policy“ the senseless shooting of a homeless African-American woman named Margaret Mitchell. It was the first time the commission had bucked the chief on anything important, but they could do no less in the current climate. Three possible mayoral candidates -- City Council Member Joel Wachs, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa -- have already called for an independent outside inquiry into the scandal.
Another declared candidate, City Attorney James Hahn, said early this week that he supports the commission‘s investigation, but that the mayor should stop lobbying the commission members about it. If Hahn seems to be walking a tightrope here, it’s because he is: Hahn‘s been at odds with Riordan for years, but in his bid for mayor he enjoys the support of Riordan’s top political adviser, Bill Wardlaw. And despite their split over mayoral succession -- Riordan supports real estate broker and crony Steve Soboroff -- both Riordan and Wardlaw share the common goal of limiting the investigation into the current scandal.
Riordan has staked his legacy on rebuilding the LAPD, with Wardlaw, the mayor‘s political brains and backroom man, masterminding the effort. If an outside inquiry -- particularly a federal inquiry -- were to find massive abuses throughout the LAPD, it would seriously undermine all that they’ve worked for. And nobody has worked harder than Wardlaw; it was he, after all, who coached Bernard Parks in his oral exams for chief.
Certainly nobody has pulled more strings than Wardlaw. The number-three position in Bill Clinton‘s Justice Department, for example, is currently filled by Raymond Fisher, who previously, as president of the L.A. Police Commission, carried Riordan and Wardlaw’s campaign to oust Willie Williams. Bill Clinton also appointed Wardlaw‘s wife, Kim M. Wardlaw, first as a federal district judge and then to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And when convicted Whitewater defendant, Clinton friend and former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell mysteriously received a consulting contract from the city of Los Angeles, guess who was hired to defend the Wardlaws in the inquiry that followed? None other than Gerald Chaleff, the current president of the L.A. Police Commission. Chaleff also represented former Riordan adviser and Airport Commissioner Ted Stein when Stein had legal troubles.
The key to the kind of report the commission will deliver lies with the determination and integrity of the current I.G., Jeff Eglash. If Eglash demands and gets the resources and independence to do his job, the commission may be forced to produce something other than a whitewash. In a memorandum delivered to the commission Tuesday, Eglash talks about investigating the entire department, and suggests serious reforms that would bring the department once and for all under firm civilian oversight.
It’s the sort of change that Chief Parks is sure to resist. The struggle that will ensue over the next several months will determine whether this scandal will achieve what riots, elections, a succession of chiefs and a blue-ribbon commission were unable to do: bring real change to Parker Center, and a new kind of cop to the streets of Los Angeles.