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Parks Seeks Donations to Police Fund

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Over the past several months, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks has tapped influential business and community leaders for financial donations to support a new police charity that will be used to fund some of his policing priorities.

The fund, called the Los Angeles Police Foundation, will “pay for big-ticket projects when there are no city resources,” said Cmdr. Dave Kalish, a spokesman for the chief.

Faced with lean budgets and growing needs, police officials throughout the nation have turned to private, nonprofit foundations to obtain equipment, pursue innovative programs and purchase cutting-edge technology when taxpayer money falls short.

“This will allow us to do a lot of great things for our officers, the department and the community,” Kalish said.

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The LAPD’s current budget is about $1 billion a year--meaning police services cost the city more than $3 million a day. Yet, despite receiving the lion’s share of the city’s funds, the LAPD often finds itself struggling to meet the needs of its 13,000-member work force. As a result, police frequently ask for financial help from business and community leaders--a practice that is not without its critics.

“These days the initials LAPD stand for the Los Angeles Panhandling Department,” joked one police officer. “It’s getting a little ridiculous.”

Parks said the foundation will coordinate and organize the department’s needs.

“It’s sad that we don’t have adequate funding available to meet all the needs,” said Councilwoman Laura Chick, chairwoman of the council’s Public Safety Committee. “Doing it in this way is probably a good idea.”

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Chick, who donates money and equipment to the LAPD’s West Valley division from her discretionary council budget, said she supports the concept of a foundation coordinating the department’s needs.

“It’s better than having individual captains and police officers begging and borrowing for things. It’s better to have it centralized and supervised by the top administration,” she said.

Although many city officials praise the chief’s effort as a creative way of accomplishing costly police goals, a few critics argue that taking money from powerful community and business leaders could raise concerns that large contributors would receive preferential treatment from police.

In an interview Wednesday, Parks said donors will not receive, nor do they expect, special treatment. He said that many business leaders he has talked to recognize that helping the LAPD fight crime helps protect their business interests in the city.

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As envisioned by Parks, the chief’s office will be “the focal point,” setting funding priorities for an independent board of directors. He said he is modeling the foundation, in part, after similar successful programs in New Orleans and New York.

Among the people Parks has made recent pitches to are: Dennis Holt, chairman of Western International Media, the nation’s largest media buying firm; developer Ira Yellin; prominent attorney Gil Ray; Jeffrey Glassman, one of Mayor Richard Riordan’s former law partners; Ronald Burkle, a grocery store mogul; and representatives of the Times Mirror Foundation. (The latter is operated by the company that owns, among other things, The Times.)

Philanthropist Pamela Mullin, who has been hosting a series of exclusive lunches for Parks, has agreed to be the foundation’s first president. Helen Mars, another philanthropist, and Parks’ wife, Bobbie, also are helping set up the foundation.

The LAPD currently has several charitable funds that are earmarked for specialized purposes, such as the Police Memorial Foundation, which mostly assists the widows of slain police officers, and the Parker Foundation, which pays for educational programs for officers.

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Many of the horses and much of the equipment used by the LAPD’s mounted patrol are paid for by private donations to the Los Angeles Equestrian Fund. The LAPD’s stables were originally built through a donation from the Ahmanson Foundation.

Perhaps the largest private contribution to the LAPD was orchestrated by Riordan, who helped raise $15 million through his Mayor’s Alliance for a Safe L.A. That group raised money to “jump start” the LAPD’s effort to modernize its technology.

The chief said his “exploratory meetings” with business and community representatives over the past several weeks have been “very well-received.”

Parks said the new foundation will provide police officers the training, education and equipment they need to perform at their “highest levels.” He said donations could be in money or in the form of “in-kind services” such as print work or advertising. Additionally, he said donors would be able to earmark contributions for particular uses within the department.

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