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
As he spiraled on, Parks reverted to the language of the Daryl Gates era he'd just reviled. He denounced the "politics" of his ouster -- as though politics with Dick Riordan had nothing to do with his being chief. He was now the victim of "outside pressures." That code term from the Gates era meant things like the will of the people, voters at the polls, the democratic process. To Parks, these seem to be paving stones in the road to public corruption -- "The finest government money can buy,'' as Parks put it. In this thinking, all civilians -- particularly elected ones -- are corrupt: Only cops can be trusted. This is the credo of the old LAPD culture that produced Chief Bernie Parks.
It's Parks' bad luck to be the last (one can only hope) LAPD chief that this culture produced. For nearly 45 years, whoever held this office was the most powerful, best-known and least accountable man in the city. Now the city's voters have decided it's time to risk democracy. This means that whomever you vote for as mayor effectively gets to tell this chief -- after five years in office -- whether his services are no longer required. Even so, Los Angeles' mayor has less direct control over the hiring and firing of the police chief than any other mayor of any great city in America.
SO ISN'T IT TIME THE CITY DUMPED the farce of an "independent" police commission, appointed by a mayor who knows how the members will vote -- particularly regarding a chief? Why not just let the mayor decree that he wants a new chief? At a time when secession's been an increasingly serious issue, L.A.'s been further scarred by the months of border fighting between Parks and his partisans and City Hall. The African-American community is now badly split and isolated just when, with its ebbing demographics, it needs to be neither. All this happened because the Police Commission did just what the mayor expected it to do. While maintaining all along -- with its repeated pretense of "independence" -- that it just possibly, maybe, might not.
Such an "independent" commission is an oxymoron. Like a kosher cheeseburger, which, if it's kosher, can't have the cheese and vice versa. Similarly, a mayor-ordained police commission can't really be independent, can it? My USC professor friend Erwin Chemerinsky said that's not the point: "A mayor is unlikely to appoint anyone to the commission who doesn't agree with him." Particularly on the vital issue of who runs the cops.
Chemerinsky argues that such city commissions provide Los Angeles with a "citizen involvement" that makes it more democratic than, say, New York. Where Mayor Rudy Giuliani could instantly oust his excellent police commissioner, William Bratton, for the crime of excessive media exposure.
I do respect Chemerinsky's view. Certainly, no one can now accuse our city of stifling the discourse on Parks' abilities. And if Parks does run for the council, that debate will still be roaring nearly a year from today.
Even so, to me the whole thing still tastes like aged Cheddar on rare ground round.