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No surprise: Los Angeles police union backs Bernard Parks' opponent

January 27, 2011 |  6:56 pm

The union representing some 9,900 rank-and-file Los Angeles police officers has endorsed Forescee Hogan-Rowles in her bid to unseat City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, the former police chief who is running for his third term representing the 8th District in South Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League’s backing of Hogan-Rowles, who runs a nonprofit group in South L.A., reflects the contentious history between the union and Parks, who served one five-year term as chief before he was ousted in 2002 by then-Mayor James K. Hahn's civilian police commission.

The commission's decision not to reappoint Parks to a second term followed an intensive campaign against him by the police union. Parks, a 38-year veteran of the department, had clashed with the union repeatedly, particularly over his approach to discipline, which many rank-and-file officers viewed as too punitive. In a union poll at the time Parks was up for reappointment, 93% of union members surveyed said they had no confidence in Parks. The union’s board of directors described Parks in a 2002 statement as “a failure.”

Parks’ campaign spokesman said the union was still “holding a grudge from his tenure at LAPD, where he fired 140 problem police officers.” The union also opposed Parks when he ran for mayor in 2005 and for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2008.

During his tenure on the council, Parks has continued to be at odds with the union over contract negotiations, some hiring decisions and schedules in which officers work three 12-hour shifts a week.

When the group offered him an interview, the councilman said, “We laughed and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ ”

“They didn’t support me when I was the chief; they didn’t support me when I ran for council, so there’s no expectation that they’re going to be there,” Parks said. “The union board is not a force in South Los Angeles. They don’t look like South Los Angeles; they don’t represent them."

He added that he did not request the group’s endorsement and would “not have accepted it.”

Hogan-Rowles said that in her meeting with the union, she had expressed her “willingness to be open and listen” to officers' concerns. She said the nonprofit group she heads, Community Financial Resource Center, has allowed the department to use its site as a staging area over the last few years when events were held at the Sports Arena and the Coliseum.

She said she also stressed to the union that she would work to keep the retirement benefits for LAPD officers intact -- noting that she had shown her commitment to protecting benefits for Department of Water and Power employees during her tenure on the utility's board.

Parks, the council’s budget chairman, has repeatedly expressed concern that police and fire pensions and benefits are consuming an increasing share of the city’s budget each year. The city is facing a shortfall of $350 million next year.

During her work on the DWP board, Hogan-Rowles said, “I never went after the retirement pensions as a way to try to balance the budget. When people work and invest all those years and that time, they deserve a respectable retirement with dignity.”

Parks fired back that pension and medical benefit costs now consume one-fourth of the city’s budget, and at the DWP “40 cents of every dollar [of the operating budget] now pays for pensions," which he believes led to the DWP rate increases while Hogan-Rowles was on the board.

“If it’s not sustainable, at some point in time, something is going to collapse,” he said. 

The league’s leaders were not immediately available for comment on their decision Thursday, but one source familiar with the deliberations said the group voted to support Hogan-Rowles by a wide margin.

RELATED:

Voter guide: March 8 Los Angeles Election

-- Maeve Reston

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