Today's revelations that Chief Parks refused to cooperate with the District Attorney's office in its Rampart investigation, then publicly misrepresented the Department's actions, constitute yet another piece of compelling evidence that the Chief is incapable of leading the Department through the reform process. The Department's tardy or incomplete information-sharing has already compromised the prosecution of some of the officers involved in the scandal, and it gives the lie to the Department's tale of the success of its internal clean-up effort. Once again, we encounter an inevitable truth: the LAPD cannot be trusted to police itself.
Los Angeles is caught in a Catch 22. On the one hand, we have a Police Chief who sets himself up as the place where the buck stops, and a Mayor who has actively supported the Chief's ultimate authority. But both of them have consistently thwarted civilian oversight, the only kind of authority that holds the entire leadership of the Department, including the Chief, accountable.
Without that missing piece, the Chief has the last word on reform - and his interests, as anyone can see, are to retain control and minimize power-sharing. A truly independent civilian oversight body could respond effectively to such a situation, but our Police Commission, appointed and removed at the Mayor's whim, is hardly independent. It has demonstrated again and again its inability to muster a response that runs counter to the Mayor's and the Chief's stance.
Throughout the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the LAPD, there has been a lot of talk about accountability from both our Mayor and our Police Chief. It's time to stop talking about accountability and to institute it. An authoritarian personality does not constitute a system of accountability, and does not eliminate the need for such a system. A five-year consent decree is a necessary first step, but not the final answer. We need meaningful civilian oversight that would put the people of Los Angeles firmly in charge of the officers whose duty it is "to protect and to serve."