LAPD’s No. 2 Official Faces Complaints : Labor: Union leaders accuse Assistant Chief Bernard Parks of circumventing laws in order to fill jobs with female, minority officers.
Directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, in a highly unusual move, said Tuesday that they will file a slew of labor complaints against Assistant Chief Bernard Parks, the department’s second-highest official and one of its most admired and feared leaders.
Leaders of the league, the union that represents rank-and-file Los Angeles police officers, are accusing Parks of circumventing labor laws in a campaign to fill LAPD positions with female and minority candidates. The result, league officials say, is that qualified white male officers are being denied promotions solely on the basis of their race and gender.
“He’s creating these labor issues,” said Hank Hernandez, general counsel to the Protective League, which has convened a special, four-member committee to investigate any allegations against Parks. “He’s abused his power. That’s corruption.”
Parks vehemently disputed that characterization, and other high-ranking department officials said they viewed the league’s action as an effort to retaliate against the black assistant chief for his vocal backing of affirmative action goals and to discourage his aggressive management style.
“The league has, in many instances, a very narrow view,” Parks said. “You only have to look at the makeup of their board to see that.”
The union board has never had a female or black member. Campaigns by several black officers in recent years have failed to win enough support to elect an African American candidate to the board.
League officials deny that their action is racially motivated, and Hernandez said the union intends to file a class-action grievance today against Parks on behalf of narcotics officers who are angry with the assistant chief. In addition, Hernandez said, the union expects to file an unfair labor practices charge and will seek a complaint with the federal Equal Opportunity Commission. League officials also want to discuss their complaints with Deputy Mayor William Violante, a former union leader who oversees public safety issues for Mayor Richard Riordan, Hernandez said.
The challenge to Parks is an admittedly risky gambit for the police union. Never before has the league created a committee to focus on the actions of a single supervisor, and Parks is a 24-year veteran known to virtually every officer in the department. Parks heads the LAPD’s Office of Operations, which controls all 18 Los Angeles police stations, as well as a number of specialized units.
All told, Parks has direct authority over about 80% of the department, and few officials in the LAPD command more respect. Police Commission President Enrique Hernandez Jr., among others, has expressed his strong support and admiration for Parks. Commission President Hernandez is not related to the league’s general counsel.
Even league officials acknowledge that Parks is an intelligent and skilled leader, but they say he has ignored labor laws and stirred considerable controversy within the department ranks. Last year, for example, Parks ordered an audit of the West Los Angeles police station to determine whether alleged sexual harassment had made working conditions difficult for female officers and civilians at the station.
In the wake of that audit, a number of officers have been transferred out of the West Los Angeles station. Internal Affairs is expected to follow up that work with possible personnel complaints.
The hard-line reaction to alleged harassment at West Los Angeles angered some officers, but Parks’ intervention in recent promotions within the LAPD’s Narcotics Group was the issue that brought the league into direct conflict with him.
A series of internal memoranda obtained by The Times illustrate Parks’ determination to see that minorities were represented in those promotions. In February, for instance, Parks urged Deputy Chief Bayan Lewis to “ensure that both gender and ethnic considerations are pushed to forefront” in those promotions.
Parks followed up that memo with others in subsequent months, including a sharply worded missive to Narcotics Group Cmdr. James Jones in May. In that document, Parks commended Jones for making some progress but added that “the pace is too slow.”
“If I do not see some graphic numbers in the placement of the remaining . . . positions, I am strongly going to consider taking a personal involvement in the Narcotics Group selection process,” Parks said.
Parks followed that memo with another one on June 8, apologizing “if my previous note was too harsh or hurt any feelings.” But he reiterated his commitment to making drastic changes in the gender and ethnic composition of the detective ranks of narcotics.
After Parks intervened in one set of detective promotions, the list of eligible candidates was thrown out. New oral examinations have been scheduled for three open detective supervisor positions.
In an interview Tuesday, Parks said his actions regarding the promotions in narcotics were intended to correct mistakes in the promotion process and to insure fairness for all the candidates.
“The process was faulty,” he said. “It’s our obligation to be fair.”
But his moves infuriated some narcotics detectives. One, Horacio Marco, filed a labor grievance, and several detectives have asked to address the Police Commission next week to air their complaints.
The LAPD has long been faulted for the dearth of women and minorities in its upper and middle-management ranks. As a result, department leaders have pledged to take aggressive steps to increase that representation.
While acknowledging that increasing diversity is an important goal of the department, league officials said they believe Parks has gone too far.
“Parks is micro-managing the Police Department,” said Cliff Ruff, the treasurer of the union and a member of its special ad hoc committee investigating Parks. “He’s doing everything on the basis of race. I’m concerned that he’s about to launch a program of ethnic cleansing.”
Parks angrily dismissed that comment and accused league leaders of ignoring their minority constituents in favor of representing the interests of white male officers.
“I wish the league was as concerned about discrimination as it is about reverse discrimination,” Parks said. “We’re talking about fairness for everyone, not just people who look like Cliff Ruff.”