Photo by Debra Dipaolo
The night Bernard Parks should have apologized to the district attorney for trying to derail the state constitution, he left his uniform hanging in the closet.
The police chief wore his civvies when he made his evening appearance outside Rampart station — where he’s been rather scarce lately.
Parks said he would cooperate with D.A. Gil Garcetti, whom he continued to accuse of stifling the investigation of Rampart corruption. He refused to say he was sorry for saying he wouldn’t cooperate; indeed, he denied ever saying anything like that. Maybe that was supposed to be a joke.
It was a rough week for actuality here in Los Angeles. It started with the implausible word that Times Mirror Corp. was being bought by some outfit in Chicago. Then came the news that Parks wasn’t going to play ball with the D.A. the way the law says he must, but would instead send all his Rampart-investigation evidence and testimony to the feds.
The ultimate comment on Parks’ demeanor in the Rampart case probably was City Attorney Jim Hahn’s demand this week that the Christopher Commission be reconvened to investigate the matter. The worry seemed less about Parks’ declaration of legal independence than that the increasingly pressured chief might simply have flipped out. It was as though he’d announced he was going to print his own currency. His proclamation created an ontological vacuum. Into which the legal facts rushed with a loud ker-pow when Hahn fed Parks both his reality check and his orders: Comply with the state law and play ball with Garcetti. This edict to Parks was accompanied by another to the Police Commission: Advise the chief to cooperate on pain of discipline. In other words, fire Parks if he does not obey. Police Commission member and career Dick Riordan sycophant Raquelle de la Rocha typically tried to moderate the message at the commission’s emergency meeting Friday. She softened the blow when she departed from the commission’s prepared text as she read it into the record, saying it “appears” the chief changed LAPD policy instead of “it is clear” that he had.
But Parks was already laid low: His March 8 letter to Garcetti (actually it was from a top Parks subordinate, Martin Pomeroy, to a top Garcetti subordinate, Mike Tranbarger, but Garcetti’s and Parks’ names appear as authorizing entities) said, “It is our intention to present all information gathered . . . to date to the U.S. Attorney as our first priority.”
But this, as USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky has said, amounts to the same thing as cutting the D.A. out: Parks can’t make such prioritization. As Garcetti was quick to say.
Now, police are not promoted purely on the basis of their grasp of the state constitution. But that the D.A. tells the police what to do and not the reverse is something every cop must know — including Chief Parks.
So why did he try to dodge reality? One speculation is that federal officials having a bone to pick with Garcetti may have gulled Parks into believing in an LAPD hyperlink to the U.S. Attorney. Others wonder whether Mayor Riordan himself had suggested that Parks stonewall the county. You might think that Riordan, as an attorney, wouldn’t give such loony advice. But to see the mayor addressing Parks and Garcetti as equally misfeasant, you had to wonder if
Riordan hasn’t gone senile. Nobody needed to be stronger in the face of Parks’ usurpation attempt. No one was weaker.
There’s another rationale to Parks’ ad lib bid to rewrite state law. This is that he’s not so much afraid — as he continues to proclaim — that Garcetti won’t get to the bottom of the Rampart mess, but rather that Garcetti will actually attempt to do so. The notorious March 8 Pomeroy/Parks letter states the limits Parks wants to place on any investigation of Rampart: “We feel that promptly bringing those police officers who currently stand accused of criminal misconduct to justice will help us restore the community’s faith in its police department and the entire criminal justice system.”
“Help us restore the community in its police department”? How about the opposite? But there’s also the essence of what Parks wants: a few slam-bang criminal convictions of known bad apples, while the rest of the cleanup would conclude under “our department’s administrative disciplinary process.” In other words, where outsiders can’t see it.
It is a very bad thing for an incumbent to come in second in a primary election, as Garcetti did this month: Maybe nothing can save him from defeat by Steve Cooley. If anything could, however, it would be a broad and exhaustive LAPD corruption investigation. Last week, Garcetti said this is what he plans to do: that, rather than seek quick convictions, he intends to go deep, to let the known Rampart culprits fret and agonize until they are willing to implicate their colleagues criminally. It would take something at least this dramatic to get Garcetti re-elected, against the lackadaisical grain of his near eight-year D.A. career. During which, as legalist Charles Lindner remarked in his March 20 Times Opinion piece, no police officer was ever charged with perjury on the witness stand. For that matter, during that time, only one LAPD officer was prosecuted for a bad shooting.
Even so radical a prosecutorial strategy could not ensure a Garcetti win. What it would do is to expose deeper LAPD wrongdoing than Parks wants the world to see. Because, though the March 1 LAPD internal report would have you believe the Rampart corruption is a rank-and-file problem, the more police wrongdoing there is, the more it reflects on the abilities of our current LAPD chief. Who already has reason to be self-conscious about wearing his four-star suit in public.
The Revenge of the Poltroons
Way, way back — when aerospace was a bigger business in Los Angeles than standup comedy — our landscape was replete with prosperous local businesses.
We had our own department-store chains: Broadway and Buffums and Bullocks, stores that not only catered to, but created, the local style. We had markets called Lucky, Hughes and Safeway that sold produce our way. We had banks called Crocker and Security Pacific. And we had a communications titan called Times Mirror Corp. It produced a local paper of some size, with a large circulation, called the Los Angeles Times.
And as of this week, we don’t have any of these anymore. The reviled, omnipotent, orthographically laggard Times will, somehow, soldier on as the largest-circulation newspaper in the constellation of the Tribune Co. The rest of Times Mirror’s century-and-a-third-old holding company — its lands, its resources, its subsidiary corporations — will be dissolved in the Chicago firm’s corporate reagents. The family company that has, for better or worse, both symbolized and brokered most of the region’s business deals of the 20th century disappears. And its local daily attribute becomes — in terms of corporate significance — one with the Trib-owned Orlando Sentinel.
Am I the only one who doesn’t care? This isn’t a good deal for everyone — self-revering Times Mirror Square luminaries may soon have to crank out a story a week, instead of one per year. And the inbred remittance-dependent descendants of the Chandlers and Otises who engineered the deal will pursue their usual, parasitical pursuits — breeding polo ponies, collecting Franklin Mint commemorative plates or however it is those with lots of money and no jobs pass their time — without the distinction of being Times Mirror legatees. Instead, they’ll be mere Tribune Corp. stockholders. Albeit obscenely rich ones.
But any great city is the sum of far more than who owns its stores, banks and filling stations. It’s the totality not of who produces for it, but what it produces for the world. New York, for instance, makes lots of money. And Los Angeles makes more movies, TV, music, and even — increasingly — art and literature than most anyplace else. Is it really a personally hurtful thing that our B of A bank checks now clear in Jacksonville? Or that our largest newspaper may soon, for the first time in years, acquire some professional management via its Midwestern owners? Just asking.
Meanwhile, speaking of stores, it’s noteworthy that while the Trib may have the Times, Chicago will soon have its first Trader Joe’s.