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Police Commission President Defends Panel’s Oversight of Chief

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In response to growing criticism of its job performance, Los Angeles Police Commission President Edith Perez said Monday that the panel has not shirked its oversight responsibilities.

“The absence of public dissent between the board and Chief of Police Bernard C. Parks does not, as some might believe, indicate an unwillingness to tackle tough issues or critically review department programs or policies,” Perez said at a news conference.

Commissioners, she said, take their oversight duties “seriously” and “will continue to do so.”

Perez’s comments came in response to an article in Monday’s Times in which a number of department observers, including former commissioners, civil rights activists and union officials, said the five-member panel is struggling to supervise Parks, who is aggressively reshaping the LAPD and enjoys wide-spread political support.

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Critics, who accused the commission of being a “rubber stamp” for the chief, mentioned several concerns, including the panel’s seemingly poor relationship with its inspector general, meeting agendas with few important policy matters, turnover in commission staff, a prolonged search for an executive director, and little public discussion of LAPD reforms.

Moreover, some community and city leaders privately have criticized Perez’s leadership of the panel, accusing her of acting more as a booster for Parks than as a civilian watchdog.

“I think that in our private meetings, the chief will tell you that he gets anything but a rubber stamp from me,” Perez said.

Parks declined to discuss the issue. His spokesman did say that the chief and the commission have a professional relationship characterized by mutual respect.

Perez and other commissioners reject the idea that they are not monitoring the chief’s actions. They said they are unfairly being compared to previous commissions, which clashed with chiefs to get things done.

“A different chief requires different oversight,” Perez said. “When a chief accomplishes much, there is no reason to have public dissension.”

Commissioners said their critics have a faulty impression of their performance and argue that they have made significant progress on many issues.

In a press statement, Perez listed seven accomplishments, including the establishment of a new language policy aimed at improving contacts with people who speak little or no English, the creation of committees exploring hate crimes and tracking problem officers, and holding occasional night meetings in the community.

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“The board of police commissioners has exercised responsible and proactive leadership and oversight of the chief . . . and the Police Department,” Perez said.

Perez also praised the LAPD for allegedly satisfying 98 of 103 recommendations that were proposed by the 1991 Christopher Commission after the beating of Rodney G. King. She said the five that were not obtained were the result of funding constraints. She did not elaborate.

Such pronouncements by Perez have been the source of concern to many of her critics. Several were surprised that the commission president could make such a declaration when the panel is still developing a meaningful tracking system and appears to be defining a role for the inspector general.

Furthermore, Perez’s comments appear to depart from the views of previous commissions, which were reluctant to treat the Christopher Commission’s recommendations as a checklist.

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Commissioners said most of their accomplishments occur out of the spotlight and thus may not be viewed as proactive.

Commissioner T. Warren Jackson, who joined Perez at the news conference, agreed that the commission is being vigilant in its oversight responsibilities.

“Frankly, I think we’ve done a great job of oversight.”


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