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LAPD’s Parks Still Largely Toiling in Anonymity

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Twenty months after taking office, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks enjoys a nearly 5-1 approval margin among city residents who say they know enough about him to evaluate his performance. But to 43% of the residents he remains an unknown quantity, according to the results of a new Times poll.

Although his rating is high compared with those of some other city and county officials, Parks’ approval numbers are significantly lower than those of his predecessor after a similar period in office.

After two years on the job, former Chief Willie L. Williams’ public support soared to 73%, with only 13% of respondents unaware of who he was or how he was doing. Even as he was publicly forced from office, Williams’ support never dipped below a 52% approval rating, according to previous Times polls.

The two chiefs have taken different approaches to the job. Williams reached out to the public, seeking to restore confidence after the 1992 riots. Parks has kept a relatively low profile, focusing on the department’s internal structure. He occasionally shuns reporters, and tends to be tight-lipped.

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City and civic leaders have credited Parks with driving down crime and cracking down on police misconduct. But some community leaders have accused him of undermining community policing programs, which were embraced by Williams and neighborhood activists.

According to the poll, 47% of those surveyed said they approved of Parks. But a surprisingly sizable number of people--43%--said they either did not know the chief or were unaware of his job performance. Only one in 10 respondents disapproved of Parks’ leadership.

Parks, an African American, showed the strongest support among black residents, 58% of whom approve of the job he is doing. Forty-nine percent of whites and 45% of Latinos approve of his job performance, the poll found.

Meanwhile, the public’s strong support of the LAPD has changed little under Parks. Sixty-four percent of the respondents approve of the job the LAPD is doing, compared to 63% during Williams’ final months.

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Residents of the San Fernando Valley showed the strongest support for the LAPD, with 74% of those polled approving of the department’s work. Also, 72% of whites and 59% of Latinos gave the LAPD high marks compared with 48% of blacks, according to the poll.

The poll, which surveyed 1,221 city residents from March 20 to March 24, includes a margin of sampling error of three percentage points.


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