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Top Black Officer To Lead L.A. Police Chief Task For 32-Year Veteran Is Better-Run Department

Deputy Chief Bernard Parks, the police department’s highest-ranking black officer, was selected by the mayor Wednesday to head up a force beset by management lapses, officer discontent and lingering wounds from the 1992 riots.

“Bernie, you have an awesome mission ahead of you,” Mayor Richard Riordan said at a City Hall news conference.

“Yes, I can do that job,” Parks answered.

Following expected approval by the City Council next Tuesday, Parks, a 32-year veteran of the nation’s second-largest police department, will succeed former Chief Willie Williams for a five-year term.

Parks, 53, will be called upon to lead the LAPD through yet another difficult period, as the pressing need for post-riot calm has been replaced by a demand for better administration.

Williams, the department’s first black chief, started off with great - and, some say, impossible - expectations, but he finished his term in conflict, bitterness and petty scandal.

Williams had replaced the controversial Daryl Gates, who was ousted as part of the fallout over the 1991 Rodney King beating and the riots that followed the acquittal of four officers.

The mayor called on Parks to deploy his force of 9,400 more efficiently, place power and accountability at the station level and not at headquarters, use new technology to fight crime and implement reforms.

Parks stressed his political and management skills over any overriding vision for the future of the department. “The single most important thing is not to have a single most important thing,” he said.

Emphasizing Parks’ political and management skills, toughness and understanding of the department, Riordan passed over Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker, and an outsider, Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas Jr.

But he also chose a man lacking the confidence of those he will lead. Members of the officers union, the Police Protective League, overwhelmingly favored Kroeker over Parks in a survey by more than 60 percent.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a little bit of disappointment,” said league president Dave Hepburn.

But Kroeker, in a news conference, called on officers to back the chief-designate.

“If you have supported me, now I need you to support Chief Parks,” Kroeker said. “I need you to get behind him. I need you to have a sense of cohesion.”


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