Chief Parks Needs Business Interests on His Side


The battle over whether Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks should be re-appointed to a second term has been publicly posed as a fight between the city's black leaders and the Police Protective League.

The League wants him out. It claims Parks is a petty and vindictive tyrant who almost single-handedly has wrecked department morale by handing out draconian punishments for trivial infractions, denying promotions and chasing out good officers.

Black leaders are furious at the union's attack on Parks. They claim that the anti-Parks campaign is a thinly disguised racial vendetta by white cops who can't stomach a black chief telling them what to do.

While the Police Commission has legal authority to retain Parks, both sides are pounding on Mayor James Hahn to turn thumbs up or down. Hahn appoints the commissioners and would have a huge impact.

Black leaders and the union aren't the only ones who need to be in on the debate. Business leaders should take more than a passing interest in Parks' fate. But so far only officials from SBC Pacific Bell, the Automobile Club of Southern California, and the Magic Johnson organization have called on Hahn to retain Parks.

Sooner or later others will need to speak up. The city's recent crime spurt, sinking morale among rank-and-file officers and lingering racial tensions between minorities and the police is bad for the city's image. And what's bad for its image is bad for business.

City and police officials have done much in the past few years to improve that image and some of the credit must go to Parks. He has proven to be a tough, savvy insider who has the respect of city officials, the mayor and the confidence of many African-Americans and Latinos.

He has toughened discipline for department violations and patched up his differences with the inspector general.

Of course, the leap in street crime this past year comes at the worst possible time for Parks and the city because, among other things, it could easily derail the feeble economic renaissance in South Central Los Angeles.

It would make even more major retailers reluctant to open up shop in the area, and cause those businesses that have taken the plunge and invested in the area during the past year or so think twice about further business expansion.

For now, Parks and his supporters need to mount an intense campaign to assure business interests and others that the chief can patch up his differences with the police union, improve officer morale and most importantly, make the streets safer. If they can do that business leaders should support him. If they can't, well

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a columnist and radio talk show host. He can be heard Tuesdays, 7-8 p.m., on KPFK Radio, 90.7 FM.

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