It’s Not About Crime and Never Was: Bernard Parks’ ouster as LAPD Chief

Bernard Parks after his hearing where he was denied another 5 year term

Los Angeles murders 1961 - 2001

By Alex Alonso (Streetgangs.com)
April 12, 2002

Bernard Parks after his hearing where he was denied another 5 year term

Bernard Parks after his hearing where he was denied another 5 year term

Do not get caught up in the rhetoric that violent crime is on the rise as the principle reason for the ouster of LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks. The Police Commission President Rick J. Caruso, Mayor James Hahn, and several radio talk show hosts including Larry Elder have unfairly blamed Bernard Parks for the recent increase in violent crime and have failed to see the bigger picture of crime in California and throughout the nation. Sean Hannity, on his daily syndicated radio talk show, revealed his ignorance when he stated that Chief Parks is not competent for the job because of the increase of crime (4-10-02), but if we are going to use that logic Mr. Hannity will have to include several more chiefs on his incompetent list.

For example Simi Valley, a city where many police officers live saw 2001 become one of the most violent years ever, with 6 homicides (mostly domestic), more than they have seen in the last three years combined. But it would be ridiculous to blame Police Chief Randy Adams for that recent upsurge. In fact, all of Ventura County saw homicides increase 34% since 1999 from 23 to 31 in 2001. But that figure is still better than the 48 homicides that took place in 1991.

Compton, Long Beach, and areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s department have all seen increases in crime, but are we to believe that Lee Baca and Jerome Lance are incompetent chiefs? The problem stems from using 1999, a year that saw crime at a 30 year low, become the barometer for measuring crime in our society today. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer recently released a report announcing that crime increased in several jurisdictions in California not just Los Angeles. The problem is not just in California but violent crime increased in Hawaii last year after they saw a record low in 1999. Boston and Phoenix had a 60 percent increase in homicides during 2001 compared to the previous year. Also homicides increased 22 percent in St. Louis, 17.5 percent in Houston, 15 percent in San Antonio, 11.6 percent in Atlanta and 5.2 percent in Chicago in 2001. Homicides in Newark, NJ, rose by 63 percent in 2001, to 96, from 59 in 2000 with nearly a third of them in Central Ward.

Los Angeles murders 1961 - 2001

Los Angeles murders 1961 - 2001

The only exception for a large city was New York which had a 5 percent decrease partly due to the unfortunate events of September 11th. In Los Angeles homicides increased from 551 in 2000 to 587 in 2001, a 6.5 percent increase, and a 39 percent increase from 1999, if that’s the year we use as our measuring rod.

The good news is that the number of homicides that occurred in 2001 is still less than those that occurred for every year between 1978 and 1996 and compound that with a population that has grown from 2.9 million in 1980 to almost 3.7 million residents in 2000. Additionally gang membership has grown from 30,000 in 1980 to about 150,000 in 2000 for LA County. So what is all the uproar about 2001 crime statistics? Considering population increases 2001 is still one of the best years on record for crime in Los Angeles.

The Chief is absolutely right when he stated that his opponents have “politicized” the selection process. The crime cry is an easy one to sell to the public and can conveniently hide other factors that weighed into denying Chief Parks a 2nd term. The dismantling of CRASH, the number of police on the streets, and other administrative changes that Parks has implemented is clearly not responsible for the recent upsurge in crime. Whether there are 8,000 or 10,000 officers on the streets the cycle of crime is an entity with an engine of its own that will steadily increase and decrease usually consistent with economic cycles. Presidents, governors, mayors, senators, other elected officials, including police chiefs are not responsible and cannot influence crime trends. It is completely dishonest to blame the recent crime spike on the Chief and his policies, and most of us should be skeptical about those who consistently bring that issue up.

alexalonso Posted by on Apr 12 2002. Filed under Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 comments on “It’s Not About Crime and Never Was: Bernard Parks’ ouster as LAPD Chief

  1. N. Driller on said:

    I both agree and disagree with your editorial.

    You are correct in saying that crime in its entirety should not be blamed on the Chief of Police. However, as an LAPD officer who endured five years of Mr.Parks as chief, I must relay to you that the decision to oust Parks was based mostly on his poor leadership and to be blunt,his hatred toward cops on the street. It was no secret that Parks did not like his officers putting criminals in jail, and that attitude filtered all the way down to supervision in the field.

    Now, the reason(s) for his lack of appreciation for police officers, albeit his own is up for debate, and the truth may never be revealed.

    We were virtually handcuffed out there. We were hated, and mistrusted by our own command staff. We were not allowed to police the streets, not allowed to do the job we were paid to do.

    Eventually “we” became fed up. We stopped caring. We realized that we were receiving the same pay for arresting no one, as we did for arresting 100 criminals. In addition, the less we produced, the more supervision would “leave us alone”.

    Many were content with that. Those that were not left for other departments where they could at least regain their dignity.

    Mayor Hahn and the Police Commission saw a crisis. They knew why cops hated coming to work. They made the right choice by removing Parks from his tyranny.

    I’ve been a cop for almost ten years, and I will tell you with the strongest conviction that there is nothing worse than a dirty cop. I detest them. However, I made an interesting observation in comparing the Rampart and Rodney King incidents. In King, everyone pointed the finger at Chief Gates citing him for fostering a racist department. Whether that was factual or not will never be known. On the other hand however, during Rampart, no one considered asking Parks how this could happen under HIS watch.

    To conclude, Mr Alonso, now a days, virtually anyone can take a few tests and become a police officer. I will tell you first hand that the pride and honor that used to go along with pinning on a badge is gone. And anyone can drive around in a police car for 8 to 12 hours a day and say they’re policing the streets. But it takes a special person to really police the streets. A person with the drive and passion to make the community safer. Most cops that are worth anything have that drive. What Parks did was take that drive away from those officers. They had to resort to just driving around and doing nothing to save their careers. Now Parks is gone and we are slowly regaining our footing.

    Be glad that Parks is gone as chief. I am. … [...]

  2. alexalonsoMathew Millen on said:

    Your comments about rising crime as not being a valid basis to deny Parks 5 more years are valid..however, the real problem is Parks is too rigid, the punishments for violation of police dept. rules by officers are too extreme..and he is not implementing the Christopher Comm. reforms….residents want community based policing…they want to meet the people who are there to protect them from the criminals in our society…riding around in cars and never meeting residents leaves residents estranged and distant…I think Chief Parks is a man of integrity, honesty and well meaning…but I also think when large numbers of his police officers don’t support him.. and that lack of support is demonstrated by departures from the dept….officers leaving to work in other cities…it is time for a change..

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