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So Long, Bernie

Police Chief Bernard Parks asked the Los Angeles City Council to overturn the Police Commission‘s vote not to grant him a second term and cranked up his long-simmering war with Mayor Jim Hahn. He accused the mayor of prejudgment and virtually of corruption.

In his hourlong speech Tuesday, Parks did not admit the slightest professional imperfection in his five years as chief. Instead, he blamed the LAPD’s problems of rising crime, a shrinking force and declining morale on the federal consent decree which followed the 1999 Rampart Division scandal, and was imposed in the wake of Park‘s inability to deliver promised police reform.

Parks made his widest-ranging accusations against his two prime antagonists -- the Police Protective League (the rank-and-file officers’ union) and Hahn. Parks alluded to “insidious outside pressures” on the LAPD, and compared Hahn‘s opposing his reappointment to 1930s political corruption -- “when we had the finest government money could buy.” Parks also claimed that Hahn had urged him to retire in January, and told him that he controlled the council and commission votes needed to oust him.

Parks also asserted that $3.5 million sent from the Mayor’s Office to the Police Protective League, ostensibly for the defense of officers accused of misconduct, may have been misused in a media campaign against him. “Was it to give them a war chest to go after me?” Parks asked.

One city attorney‘s official, not speaking for attribution, said the transfer was agreed to in the wake of a new city-charter provision that removed a previous system for officer defense. This was proposed under the administration of Mayor Dick Riordan, who appointed Parks.

Police-union president Mitzi Grasso said that Parks himself had approved the funding transfer. As to the accusation that the league used the money to campaign against Parks, Grasso said, “That’s ridiculous. He needs to confront the fact that 1,200 officers have left, morale remains low, and crime has skyrocketed.”

Hahn‘s press office refused to comment on Parks’ accusations. But a top city official speculated that, “If Bernie somehow wins this one, he‘ll be the most powerful person at City Hall. And that’s what this thing is really all about.”


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