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EDITORIAL : THE IRON FIST; CHIEF PARKS HAS FIRED MORE OFFICERS THAN EVER BEFORE.

ORDER, dignity and discipline have been restored to L.A.'s finest, the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department, and residents have Chief Bernard C. Parks to thank.

Parks has taken a zero-tolerance approach against officers who commit serious offenses, including lying and domestic violence.

Last year Parks fired an unprecedented number of officers, 54 - five times the number of officers fired in each of the previous two years. That certainly will cement his reputation as a strict disciplinarian.

What's incredible, however, is that it is the first time in the department's history that officers are routinely dismissed for committing serious offenses, especially for excessive use of force against citizens, a crime that was routinely tolerated before the Rodney King videotaped beating.

Once again, Parks has demonstrated his commitment to raising the bar for the LAPD and restoring the public's faith in the force's 9,600 officers.

Today, the force has truly earned the public's respect and trust.

Since the days of shame, when Daryl Gates ruled autocratically and riots erupted after acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King, morale within the LAPD and respect for the department have made a remarkable recovery.

Under former Chief Willie Williams, the public saw that brutality and discrimination against residents would no longer be tolerated. But Williams was unable to raise morale, earn respect from the rank and file or get a handle on discipline.

Clearly, the turning point was the brave and effective performance of LAPD officers during the North Hollywood shootout nearly two years ago.

A process that began from the bottom has now reached the top: a chief who commands respect from his troops and earns respect from the public.

The people of Los Angeles have a right to expect that officers will behave within the law when no one's looking or taping and when they're off duty and at home.

Until Parks took over as chief, no one ever held officers routinely accountable for sexual battery, drug use, subornation of perjury, theft, domestic violence and excessive force.

The results were devastating. It certainly can be argued that the public's lack of trust in the LAPD was crucial in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. It's what Simpson's lawyers exploited: the widespread belief, right or wrong, that LAPD officers on the whole were racist, lied under oath and falsified evidence.

Parks cannot be praised enough for demanding that his officers be above reproach. And if those standards weed out people who don't belong, so be it.

There also must be fairness so that officers aren't facing dismissal for breaking petty rules or running afoul of insider politics.

Since the Christopher Commission, strong civilian oversight and creation of an inspector general have strengthened the LAPD.

But Parks deserves credit for ruling with an iron fist and not tolerating officers who abuse the law, their authority or ordinary citizens.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 8, 1999
Words:481
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