Hahn to Bernie: Drop Out 

Wednesday, Feb 6 2002

Two hours before Mayor Jim Hahn began his Tuesday news conference to state his opposition to Bernie Parks getting a second term as police chief, South Los Angeles activist Najee Ali was already reacting. He’d gone to the Los Angeles City Clerk’s Office to file papers to petition for the recall of Hahn.

“No one has complained about Parks but the cops,’’ Ali said. “It’s all political. Hahn has caved in to the demands of the Police Protective League.’’ A recent poll among members of that union, which has long opposed Parks, found that more than 90 percent of the respondents opposed rehiring Parks this year for a second five-year term as chief. The PPL strongly supported Hahn for mayor, and Hahn has already delivered on his PPL- inspired campaign promise to shorten the LAPD work week.

Ali became known last year when he publicly accused U.S. Representative Maxine Waters of being involved in his dismissal from the staff of a local community newspaper. Now he has accused Waters and her African-American establishment of preparing to sell out on the Parks-Hahn issue. “They’ll make some noise and expect it to go away,’’ Ali said. “This is where the young activists take over.’’

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Ali is head of Project Islamic Hope, which, he said, “belongs to a national association of Islamic Americans numbering 2 million.’’ He said he’d seek a national appeal of the issue, including approaches to African-American entertainment personalities for support.

Putting Hahn’s name on a recall ballot would require signatures from 15 percent of the city’s 1,590,000 voters — nearly 230,000. Then it would take a simple majority of voters in a special election to oust Hahn, who seemed confident that his decision regarding Parks would not affect his own chances in any future election. “I’ll let the people make that decision,’’ Hahn said.

In criticizing Parks, the appointee of his predecessor Dick Riordan, Hahn singled out rising crime statistics, loss of officers and the chief’s general slowness at reinstalling community- policing measures Parks had originally canceled, particularly the popular senior-lead-officer system. Despite much encouragement by Hahn and others, the mayor said, “The chief has still not completely restored the senior-lead program.’’ Hahn also cited Parks’ alleged non-cooperation on tracking LAPD racial profiling and his foot-dragging on last year’s consent decree.

Hahn also offered his apologies to an African-American community whose growing unity in support of Parks appeared to have healed decades-old divisions.

“To my friends in the African-American community,” Hahn said, “I want you to know that this decision was very difficult for me. But I had to do what was best for the city.’’ Hahn said he’d tried, during two “cordial’’ meetings, to persuade Parks simply to resign, but Parks said last week that he would seek another term.

Councilman Nate Holden, one of Hahn’s strongest supporters in last year’s election, held his own impromptu news conference to denounce the mayor’s decision. “This violates the spirit of the Christopher Commission report, which asked for a reforming chief,’’ Holden said. Holden’s two African-American colleagues — Jan Perry and Mark Ridley-Thomas, who also supported Parks — deplored Hahn’s decision.

The reaction of other City Council members was subdued. Cindy Miscikowski, who chairs the Public Safety Committee that handles police matters, disagreed with Hahn’s assertion that Parks hadn’t sufficiently worked to advance the LAPD’s federal consent decree. “He’s done a reasonable job there,’’ she said, “but the other big issues are ripe for judgment.’’

Councilman Ed Reyes seemed to be neutral: “This is how Mr. Hahn sees his role as mayor. Our response is to follow the process.’’ His Latino colleague Nick Pacheco, whose 14th District has sustained 11 homicides since the first of the year, said, “I think Parks could do a better job.’’

Although Hahn said he’d repeatedly asked the PPL to tune down its anti-Parks rhetoric, the union issued its own statement after the news conference: “Parks asked us, on his appointment five years ago, to judge him from his record. Five years later, the record is clear. [Hahn] is showing real leadership in taking this position.’’

Hahn declared that he condoned City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s recent statement backing Parks’ reappointment, but suggested that, as a result, the city would now have to hire an independent lawyer to handle chief- related matters. Hahn acknowledged that he’d similarly supported Parks predecessor Willie Williams’ failed bid for reappointment in 1997, but contended that the highly controversial Williams, an outsider from Philadelphia, had been a better chief than Parks: Crime went down under Williams, up under Parks.

For some longtime Parker Center watchers, Hahn’s suddenly open anti-Parks stance came out of nowhere. “I was astounded,’’ said Joe Domanick, author of To Protect and Serve. “Now the city should go all the way and find itself a reform chief of stature. I doubt they’ll find one in this department.’’

To Ali, the problem was that Parks was never given a chance: “I have recently talked to Parks. He was improving the force, greatly increasing discipline. Whoever comes after him will have to start everything all over.’’

The Los Angeles Police Commission will actually make the decision whether Parks is reappointed, and the panel of five mayoral appointees is generally considered unlikely to counter the mayor’s wishes. The City Council, however, may also intervene in the process if 10 members vote to do so. After that, it would take a simple eight-vote majority for the council to overrule the Police Commission’s decision regarding Parks.

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