The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today reiterated its call for an open meeting of the Police Commission regarding the request for reappointment by Chief of Police Bernard Parks. While the ACLU/SC has not taken a position on Chief Parks' reappointment, the affiliate is in agreement with the Chief on the issue of an open Police Commission meeting.
"The people of this city deserve to know how their Chief of Police will be judged by the Commission," said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU/SC. "Not only is an open meeting sound public policy, but this issue is of vital importance to the community. Chief Parks has waived his right to a confidential job review and the commission should grant his request to open the meeting to the public."
On Thursday, March 28, the Chief requested an open meeting with the Police Commission and waived his right to privacy. Since then various groups with diverging views on the Chief's reappointment have weighed in on his behalf in support of an open meeting.
"The need for an open meeting is particularly pressing, given that these deliberations take place in the aftermath of one of the largest police corruption scandals in our Nation's history," wrote Dan Tokaji, ACLU/SC Staff Attorney in a letter to the commission sent today. "At a time when the need for public accountability of the Los Angeles Police Department is at its greatest, it is unfortunate that the Police Commission would choose to deliberate the reappointment of the City's police chief behind a veil of secrecy."
Although the ACLU/SC has been critical of Chief Parks' performance, particularly in the areas of reform and civilian review, it is in full agreement with the Chief that the hearings should be open to the public. The ACLU/SC has continually cited the "culture of secrecy" surrounding the LAPD as one of the main obstacles to true police reform. By refusing to open the meeting to the public, the organization believes, the Police Commission will be contributing to the very culture that has hindered reform efforts time and time again.
"To conduct the deliberations over Chief Parks' reappointment in closed session is to continue an unfortunate pattern, prevalent throughout the Department's troubled history of resisting public accountability," continued Tokaji. "It is precisely such an insistence upon secrecy rather than openness that has created an atmosphere in which police misconduct ? such as that prevalent in the Rampart Division ? can fester unchecked, resulting in a widespread loss of public trust in those who are sworn to serve and protect."