is the answer to all of our problems today ...
It's time to put the question of reappointment behind us … time
to get back to actual policing, and stop the political campaign.
The Chief has failed to overcome his perceived shortfalls, failed
by a substantial margin to convince the Board of Police Commissioners
he deserves five more years.
The Chief should depart gracefully, accepting the decision, knowing
that the City is grateful. For all of us his thirty-seven year career
speaks for itself.
Los Angeles needs to heal, needs to look to the future, and the
Commission needs to get busy seeking prospective candidates by doing
a nationwide search both inside and outside the LAPD for the next
Chief of Police.
In the announcement of the decision not to reappoint the Chief,
the Commission laid out a lot of its criteria.
He or she will have to be a person who can offer a creative and
an inspirational vision, someone who will address the important
issues of discipline and reform, officer and community morale and
the rising violent crime rates. Furthermore, the Board will seek
someone who can fashion an image of LAPD that's attractive to potential
In short, the next Chief will need to provide the Department and
the community of Los Angeles with the kind of LAPD leadership it
so sorely deserves.
Confidentiality vs. Freedom of Speech
Events over the past couple of weeks have revolved around issues
of a need for maintaining confidentiality and a request for open
But there's been a huge double standard in play …
The suggestion that the Police Commission has "hijacked" the process
by deciding to hold closed session discussions with the Chief is
ridiculous. The move seemed to make perfect sense, if for no other
reason than the Board wanted to get its work completed in a timely
and relatively businesslike manner.
Recent meetings, which always included a Public Comment period,
had in some cases been reduced to gripe sessions, free-for-alls
during which no other Commission business could be conducted.
That's because in every case each person who asked to speak was
At one point, the Chief was due to be at a Police Commission meeting
to begin his evaluation but requested, and was allowed, extra time
to prepare his presentation.
Then, just before he was about to finally meet with the Board, he
abruptly suggested he'd like to "wave his rights" to personal confidentiality
and have the sessions be conducted in an open forum … this as the
momentum mounted for what he must have incorrectly perceived as
worthwhile and advantageous community support.
An opinion offered by the City Attorney's office indicated that
no matter what the Chief wanted the Commission could not freely
discuss possibly sensitive issues involving police officer relations
without risking harm to the Officers and their rights.
In the end, the nine hours of evaluation testimony were conducted
in two closed sessions.
It seemed evident the Chief was more than satisfied with how things
had gone. It was widely reported that he emerged from the meeting
on the second and final day of his presentation confident and smiling.
It's over … or is it?
The notion that the Commission had conducted a "smear campaign"
is ludicrous. At every turn they have sought to be forthright and
candid, with clear explanations of how they planned to conduct the
evaluation process, and of what they wanted from the Chief.
Their criteria were published publicly, and well in advance. Each
repeatedly expressed that he or she had an open mind, and would
assess the reappointment of the Chief for a possible second five
year term based on the condition of the Department, his vision for
reform, and on his merits.
The Chief, in turn, repeatedly stated that's all he asked.
On Tuesday afternoon, I stood outside Parker Center with scores
of press, police officials and other activists patiently waiting
for the Board to announce what decision had been reached. There
was an amazing calmness there, and I commented to several people
how in the composure we felt in that moment there was an obvious
indication that the Police Commission had done something right.
Because no one knew for certain what the decision that day would
After the announcement there was near jubilation throughout the
Department, a relief shared by an overwhelming majority of the City
as a whole, as the spirits of officers, command staff and residents
alike were lifted. We felt reassured, unburdened, and we thought
we could now put the question behind us and get on with it.
We should have known better …
Integrity is not the issue … but it could have been
Characteristically, the Chief has decided to take this to the wall,
and he's doing so based largely on a claim of his having been treated
unfairly, of his "integrity" being damaged. It's rumored he's considering
suing the City over this. He says no matter how it goes he'll proudly
serve every day.
But it's not a sense of integrity at the center of all this, it's
the requirement in the end to relinquish power … it's wounded pride,
and false pride at that.
No matter who the next Chief might be one hopes that he or she will
never lose sight of the fact that the Chief of Police serves at
the pleasure of the community.
The exercise of "power" is not to be used to secure a job. The position
includes certain fundamental responsibilities … to have an open
mind and heart to the community, to be able to listen to all voices
and maintain availability, to be flexible concerning policy and
lead creatively … and to provide vision for every officer currently
in the LAPD, as well as be an inspiration for new recruits.
In short, the Chief's basic job should be to seek to improve the
quality of life both inside and outside the Department, and in all
parts of the City of Los Angeles.
The recent debacle involving the failing crusade waged by the Chief
of Police has left me shaking my head … there should be humility
in being of service.
The fact is that many tactics used during the unprecedented, unseemly
and ill fated "campaign" being conducted by and on behalf of Chief
Parks, ultimately a civil employee until the very moment of his
departure from office, were not only in bad taste, but perhaps could
be argued as a dereliction of duty.
Some recent examples
How can the Chief justify his frequent habit of answering direct
Board questions with indirect answers, and to refuse to see to it
that the reports the Commission requests are completed and delivered
on time, on point and in the format requested?
How can the Chief justify missing several regularly scheduled Board
of Police Commission meetings, where he is expected to be, yet recently
be widely reported by all the press on the same day as having attending
the grand opening of a coffee shop?
How can the Chief justify missing a Town Hall meeting in the Valley,
especially considering his proud insistence on how attentive he
is to "the community," yet be widely reported by all the press on
the same day as having attended an Urban League event instead?
How can the Chief justify spending taxpayer money over and over
by promoting himself and his case for reappointment with press releases
and editorials on the LAPD website, a publicly funded forum for
the dissemination of information, not the promotion of a personal
How can the Chief justify further wasting City time and money on
a continuation of this obviously lost cause by asking for an opportunity
to make a 90 minute speech in front of City Council meant to convince
them to "take jurisdiction" away from civilian oversight?
How can the Chief justify holding hostage a City and a Department
he claims to so dearly love?
Enough is enough
There's no obligation to allow the Chief to speak at the
City Council ... but it will require a two-thirds vote by the Council
to proceed. Although it's his right to ask for this, it can only
further damage the City.
And personally, I've heard enough.
In Los Angeles, there are only two civilian Boards of Commissioners
whose members cannot be removed from office without cause, without
a gross dereliction of duty being involved … the Board of Ethics
and the Board of Police Commissioners.
And for good reason. The principal of civilian oversight is so cherished
in these two areas that once these two Boards are established the
Commissioners are protected from political review.
Furthermore, although you wouldn't know it, the Chief is not a political
candidate … not yet ... and this is not a political office.
The LAPD Chief of Police is the top administrative officer of a
City service, a civil servant, and his over quarter of a million
dollar a year salary is paid by all of us, the tax paying residents
of Los Angeles (as will his nearly quarter of a million dollar a
year pension be).
He works for us. And that's why there's civilian oversight.