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Chief Obstacles 

Why Bernard Parks shouldn’t get a second term

Wednesday, Dec 26 2001
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1.Get the Lead Out. Within weeks of taking office in September 1997, LAPD Chief Bernard Parks eliminates the Senior Lead Officers, a popular program in which a single officer served as community liaison for each police station. The decision prompts immediate and enduring outcry.

2. Drive, She Said. Parks stays mum when his daughter, Michelle Lynette Parks, is arrested in Las Vegas for conspiring to sell cocaine. The younger Parks, a former LAPD clerk who was collecting disability payments, was arrested June 25, 1998, after driving a “friend” to a parking lot, where he sold 20 grams to an undercover officer. Prosecutors dropped the charges when Michelle said she was unwitting of the transaction.

3. Reform Follows Function. In August 1998, Parks tells the Police Commission that the LAPD reform demanded after the Rodney King beating has been substantially achieved, with 82 of 102 specific reforms in place. Comments Edith Perez, then president of the commission: “It is very fair to say in many cases the accomplishments of the Police Commission and the Los Angeles Police Department surpass the recommendations made by the Christopher Commission.” Rafael Perez is arrested that same month.

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4. Undocumented Workers. Addressing the Police Commission in September 1999, Jeffrey Eglash, named inspector general for the LAPD to replace Katherine Mader, who resigned in disgust, says the chief and the department are stonewalling his inquiries. Despite express orders from the commission, Parks and his staff “unilaterally sought to put restrictions” on access to documents, says Eglash.

5. Officer Down. A week later, on September 19, Parks calls a press conference to announce that former Officer Rafael Perez, convicted of stealing 8 pounds of cocaine, has admitted to shooting and framing an unarmed gang member. Twelve other officers are suspended pending further investigation. “It’s not a good day,” Parks opines.

6. O’er the Rampart He Watched. On March 2, 2000, upon the release of his Board of Inquiry report into the breakdown of command authority at Rampart, Parks is queried by Geraldo Rivera:

Rivera: Your own report admits systemic failure to understand patterns of police misconduct. As I understand it, you have been chief of this department or in charge of Internal Affairs for the past six years. Doesn’t your failure, your inability or unwillingness to root out police misconduct, scream the need for an outside agency to take over this inquiry?

Parks: No. Next question.

Rivera: Is that an answer, chief?

Parks: No is the answer. Next question.

7. Does Not Share Well With Others. On March 17, Parks finds himself under fire for refusing to share investigative files with the district attorney. The Police Commission intervenes and requires Parks to cooperate with then-D.A. Gil Garcetti. Clearly annoyed, Parks sounds off to reporters: “If we have made a mistake in this process so far, it is that we have gotten into a verbal dispute with a person who has a sagging political future.”

8. Lead In, Then. On March 13, 2001, Chief Parks joins with Mayor Richard Riordan to announce that the Senior Lead Officer program will be reinstated. “Community policing is back,” Riordan declares. Parks smiles but has little to add.

9. Clerks. On June 21, the city is ordered to pay $3.6 million — and Parks is personally assessed $500,000 in damages — for demoting and then firing a clerk in retaliation for her truthful testimony against the department in a suit seeking overtime pay for officers. According to one juror, Parks undermined his own case by acting “arrogant” on the witness stand.

10. Flagging Interest. Flag pins are in sudden vogue across the nation in the days after September 11, but cause a flap at the LAPD when Parks says only DARE pins are acceptable. The chief’s pals at the Police Protective League jump on the edict as an example of Parks’ nitpicking nature. Mayor James Hahn finally steps in with a second, non-DARE flag pin to resolve the symbolic standoff.

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