to My Chief
April 22, 2002
My Darling Chief Parks,
So this is good-bye. Au revoir, mon chèr Chef! I wish you well. But I am not sorry to see you go. I tip all of my many hats to the ladies and gentlemen of the Los Angeles Police Commission and the LA City Council for their refusal to grant you a second term as LA Chief of Police, your Dream Job.
You were the Dream Chief. At least, you looked the part. And here in Hollywood, if you've got the look, you're a shoe-in to get the role. Tall, dark, svelte and sexy, with deep soulful eyes, a sensuous but rugged mouth with the Wild West moustache, that distinguished silver tint to your hair, and, of course, that always perfectly pressed uniform. You were a Police Chief from Central Casting, an African-American Cowboy, a New Age Hero.
But alas, the perfect Police Chief "look" couldn't conceal the fact that you were sitting on a pile of putrid, poisonous LAPD customs and policies. Of course, that pile started putrefying long before you were appointed Chief. Your downfall was that you felt obliged to sit on it, shield it, "protect and serve" it, and essentially keep it so that nobody could clean it up.
O Chief Parks, why oh why, wouldn't you let anybody clean up that shit? Were you so convinced of your own and the LAPD's perfectly pressed perfection that you couldn't bear to let (ugh) civilians help you to effect reform? Were you afraid of incurring the wrath of the LAPD commanders that run their precincts with the arrogance of Afghan warlords? Were you afraid of what you might find? Or do you just deeply believe, in your LAPD-bred bones, that might is right and civilians be damned?
Whatever your reasons for sitting on that pile of police corruption, duplicity and bone-shattering brutality, with all due respect, my darling Chief Parks, your ass was just too skinny to effectively cover it up. And so the pile you've been sitting on, lo these five years, has taken to stinking so bad that the whole world now holds their noses when they hear the letters LAPD.
"The list of cities which have changed is long--San Diego, Boston, San Jose, Pittsburgh," says Sam Walker, a University of Nebraska expert on police accountability, talking about police reform throughout America since the infamous videotaped Rodney King beating at the hands of LAPD. "But the LA police leadership simply continues to operate with an in-your-face attitude ... that they know all the problems and no one else can possible understand. Therein lies their problem."
Having personally had one of your "rogue" officers hold a gun to my head, having felt the organized thuggery, unboundaried deceit and blatant sexual profiling of your municipal paramilitary forces when some 25 heavily armed LAPD officers forcibly invaded my broadcast studio and art gallery, helicopters buzzing overhead, then searched and occupied the entire space for two and a half hours without a warrant or a (legal) reason, rummaging through my tapes, my computers, the books in my library, the art on my walls, the clothes in my wardrobe and even the food in my refrigerator, intimidating the guests at my show, bringing the operations of my Internet/TV studio to a halt an hour before a live broadcast, threatening, laughing, and pointing guns, I feel I have some understanding of the anguish of the many other, far more viciously treated victims of LAPD style and policies.
And yes, my darling Chief Parks, my lawsuit, now under appeal to the 9th District Court, is against you personally, for perpetuating customs and policies within the LAPD that foster an abuse of power, a violation of the people's trust in their peace officers that constantly threatens, intimidates, hurts and sometimes destroys citizens like me just trying to live our lives and do our work in peace.
It's been a rough five years (your forces raided me twice, both times without charging me with anything). But I do feel somewhat vindicated now that you are being shown the door. The Block Curse works in mysterious ways. I'm proud that my outcry over your unconscionable invasions was one of many voices of outrage over your policies that shouted you out of Parker Center.
When Republican Mayor Richard Riordan appointed you Chief in August of 1997, you were an LAPD insider with 34 years on the force, trained and groomed by LAPD Chief Darryl Gates, the man who almost single-handedly brought us the Rodney King Beating followed by the Rodney King Riots. Why Mayor Dick thought that a guy who'd been practically raised by the LAPD would be able to guide its reform is anybody's guess.
But you and Dick wound up spatting after all. Just a couple of weeks after your forces invaded my broadcast studio and art gallery, the Mayor said that you and the District Attorney were "acting like children" because you refused to cooperate (again, protecting the LAPD pile of poop), right through the Ramparts scandals, featuring officers making false arrests, giving perjured testimony and framing innocent people. Six months later, in front of the LA Press Club at a gathering at the Pantry (his restaurant), the Mayor apologized to me for your unwarranted invasion of my studio/gallery. That was encouraging, but where's your apology, Chief?
Mayor Dick wasn't too happy with you for other reasons. He had promised Angelinos to reduce crime. But despite, or more probably, because of your bully tactics, crime in Los Angeles, especially murder (with a 34% increase in the last two years), has pretty consistently gone up under your watch.
Is there any wonder that violence begets more violence, that police brutality is met with criminal aggression? Police brutality doesn't necessarily lower the crime rate, but it does teach our children that might is right, that force is the answer, even if you don't know the question. We cannot create a great city of diversity, culture, technology and commerce when we have a police force that is shooting, lying, breaking laws, violating civil rights and threatening all areas of the community. And we cannot maintain a solvent city when so many honest citizens feel they have to sue the police (and now I hear that you yourself are going to sue the city over this humiliating boot out the door).
Your legacy, my darling Chief Parks, remains in the millions in court and prison costs from the hundreds of innocent people who have been harassed (like me), arrested and imprisoned. Maybe worst of all for a Man of the Force like yourself, you succeeded in making a tough job even tougher for the many good cops of the LAPD whose lives are in even more danger because of your disregard for the needs of our community. "Morale" is so low, that in an unprecedented poll sponsored by the LA Police Protective League (not exactly a liberal organization), LAPD officers themselves voted overwhelmingly to express their lack of confidence in you.
Just this past January, you used the 9.11 attacks and subsequent "War on Terror" as an excuse to make a grab for more police power, and let freedom of speech be hanged. "We have suffered somewhat by being overly concerned in the last two decades with the civil libertarian's point of view and we should not have unnecessary hurdles if our role is to protect the community," you said.
This is just the kind of attitude that enabled your force to invade my studio. And it has got to change. We will not have our civil rights trampled under the guise of protecting people. We need meaningful police reform.
And apparently, there are enough brave folks on the LA Police Commission and in the LA City Council, as well as our new Mayor James Hahn, who agree with me here, who believe that the answer just might lie in reform, in community policing and even love, understanding and some variation of what I call The Bonobo Way.
Of course, it won't be easy to find a suitable replacement for you, someone open to strong civilian oversight and broad community policing. We could EASILY get somebody worse. Yikes! But I'm hopeful. Maybe we'll get someone like Willie Williams. The worst thing he did was hang out in Vegas for a few days. They kicked him out because he was an outsider. But when your insides are sick and putrefying, help from the outside may be just what you need.
be with you,
If you would like to help Dr. Susan Block with her Appeal to the 9th District Court for her Lawsuit against the LAPD and Former LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks for the Illegal and Unwarranted Invasion of Her Broadcast Studio and Art Gallery, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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