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The Honorable Bernard Parks

Los Angeles city councilman Bernard Parks was born in Beaumont, Texas, on December 7, 1943; his family moved to Los Angeles while Parks was still young. While attending Holy Spirit High School, Parks played football and served as the class president. After graduating from high school, Parks attended Los Angeles City College from 1961 until 1963 before being hired at General Motors. Parks then enrolled in Los Angeles’ police academy, and in February of 1965, was sworn in as an officer at a time that police cruisers were being desegregated.

Parks was promoted to sergeant in 1970. That same year, Parks also began attending Pepperdine University, where he earned his B.S. degree in 1976 in public management, and simultaneously earned his M.A. degree in public administration from the University of Southern California. While attending college, Parks was promoted to lieutenant, and in 1977, became a captain with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). By 1980, Parks was serving as commander, and in 1988, he was named deputy chief of police for Los Angeles. In 1992, Parks became assistant chief of police; two years later, following an institutional reorganization, Parks returned to the role of deputy chief. In August of 1997, Parks was named Los Angeles chief of police, a position he held until 2002.

In his various executive roles with the police department, Parks was responsible for overseeing task forces on anti-terrorism, internal affairs, and organized crime. As chief of police, Parks overhauled of the department, initiating a community policing network; he also worked to stem corruption within the LAPD, sending former police officers to jail for gross violations of the law. During his tenure as chief of police, crime in Los Angeles fell by thirty-five percent.

After leaving the police department, Parks successfully ran in 2002 for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. While serving in this office, Parks worked to modernize the Los Angeles International Airport and to bring the National Football League back to Los Angeles.

Parks is a member of several local, statewide and national law enforcement organizations, as well as a founding member of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, which aims to foster growth and understanding between black police officers and their communities. Parks is an accomplished speaker and is widely considered to be an authority on criminal justice issues.

Accession Number

A2004.237

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/19/2004

3/31/2005

7/31/2014

Last Name

Parks

Maker Category
Schools

Holy Spirit Elementary School

Daniel Murphy Catholic High School

St. Patrick's Catholic School

University of Southern California

Pepperdine University

Los Angeles City College

First Name

Bernard

Birth City, State, Country

Beaumont

HM ID

PAR04

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/7/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Ice Cream, Chili Beans

Short Description

Police chief and city council member The Honorable Bernard Parks (1943 - ) served as the Los Angeles chief of police from 1997 to 2002; during his tenure crime in Los Angeles fell by thirty-five percent. In 2002 Parks was elected to a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, where he worked to modernize the Los Angeles International Airport and to bring the National Football League back to Los Angeles.

Employment

Los Angeles Police Department

Los Angeles City Council

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252034">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of the Honorable Bernard Parks' interview, session 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252035">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252036">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252037">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252038">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his father and paternal family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252039">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks contemplates how his parents might have met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252040">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his father's life in Los Angeles, California and career in law enforcement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252041">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks details the integration of black policemen into the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252042">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his parents' reactions to racism in their workplaces</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252043">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls growing up in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252044">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Bernard Parks lists his siblings and cousins with whom he grew up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252045">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the neighborhood in which he grew up in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252046">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his family and the daily routines of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252459">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls his childhood activities, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252460">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls his childhood activities, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252461">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls moving to the West Side of Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252462">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his father's talent for building things</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252463">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks lists mentors and impactful people from his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252464">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls playing football for St. John Vianney High School in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252465">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his social life as a student at St. John Vianney High School in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252466">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his aspirations and interests at St. John Vianney High School in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252467">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his years following his high school graduation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252468">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his father's law enforcement career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252469">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Bernard Parks explains his decision to join the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252470">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable Bernard Parks remembers learning about the extent of racial divisions while in the Los Angeles police academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252471">Tape: 2 Story: 13 - The Honorable Bernard Parks comments on tensions between police and the black community in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252472">Tape: 2 Story: 14 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about the Los Angeles Police Department killing of Leonard Deadwyler in 1966</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252061">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of the Honorable Bernard Parks' interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252062">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks explains why he decided to become an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252063">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the racial biases that were part of the examination process for joining the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252064">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks explains how police were viewed by black people in Los Angeles, California and attempts to remove corruption from the department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252065">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about how the Los Angeles Police Department served as a model for reforming other police departments</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252066">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about de facto segregation within the Los Angeles Police Department, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252067">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about de facto segregation within the Los Angeles Police Department, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252068">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the biggest challenges he faced as a police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252069">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about pressures from the black community and the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252070">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his promotions and how he prepared for them</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252071">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about the educational backgrounds common for police offers in the 1970s and 1980s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252473">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his promotion to sergeant</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252474">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes community issues affecting the Los Angeles Police Department of the 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252475">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls the general perception of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. within the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252476">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls reactions within the Los Angeles Police Department to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252477">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about mistreatment of the public by police officers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252478">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks reflects upon police officers' reactions to criticism from minority communities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252479">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about completing his college education while working for the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252480">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks explains his promotions within the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252481">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the accountability he tried to instill as he rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252482">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about the late Los Angeles, California Mayor Tom Bradley</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252082">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about the history of community policing and its deterioration in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252083">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes misconceptions about methods of community policing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252084">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about the need for policing to involve crime prevention and education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252085">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about obstacles to promotion within the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252086">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his efforts to strengthen relations between the Los Angeles Police Department and communities it serves</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252087">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks remembers his and other police officials' response to the 1992 Rodney King beating</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252088">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about the Rampart scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252089">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about the Rampart scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252090">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of the Honorable Bernard Parks' interview, session 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252091">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about Daryl Gates' tenure as Los Angeles, California chief of police</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252092">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks remembers his reaction to the 1992 Rodney King beating</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252093">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the role of the police in the criminal justice system</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252094">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks explains his position on keeping records on officers' use of force</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252095">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the process of selecting the chief of police in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252096">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks explains how Daryl Gates was selected as chief of police in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252097">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about Willie Williams' tenure as chief of police in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252098">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his priorities after his 1997 appointment as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252099">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes how he reformed accountability processes for officers in the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252100">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls the creation of the LAPD Cold Case Homicide Unit its role in solving the Grim Sleeper serial killer case</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252101">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls the Rampart scandal</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252102">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the outcome of investigating corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department Rampart Division</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252103">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the aftermath of the United States Department of Justice's consent decree for the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252104">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks reflects upon the public's various responses to his handling of the Rampart scandal</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252105">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recounts former Los Angeles, California mayor James K. Hahn's decision not to rehire him as chief of police</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252106">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks reflects on the need for institutionalizing reforms within the Los Angeles Police Department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252107">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks recalls his election to the Los Angeles City Council in 2002</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252108">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes programming he created as a representative for Council District 8 in Los Angeles, California, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252109">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bernard Parks programming he created as a representative for Council District 8 in Los Angeles, California, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252110">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about issues faced by his constituents in Council District 8 of Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252111">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his plans to retire</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252112">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bernard Parks outlines his philosophy of public service</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252113">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252114">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bernard Parks reflects upon the 2008 presidential election of HistoryMaker The Honorable Barack Obama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252115">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bernard Parks reflects upon his career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252116">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - The Honorable Bernard Parks reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252117">Tape: 8 Story: 10 - The Honorable Bernard Parks talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/252118">Tape: 8 Story: 11 - The Honorable Bernard Parks describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

2$3

DATape

3$7

DAStory

8$3

DATitle
The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the biggest challenges he faced as a police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department
The Honorable Bernard Parks describes the outcome of investigating corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department Rampart Division
Transcript
Now what was, well what were your experiences as a trainee, how did you, how were you treated and what was the, you know, what were the biggest challenges that you faced?$$The, the biggest challenges were that you were not generally even considered. If there was a special detail such as in a patrol unit where you're gonna have a special, what they used to call a special operation, blacks weren't even thought of to be put in those positions. Blacks didn't get a chance to work in vice unless it was a specific black vice problem, where your ethnicity played a role. But the key was, is that most of the decisions were not, were being made by white supervisors who tended to pick people in their own image and likeness. So you may have gotten on the department, you may have gotten in patrol, but there was no real channel to get you out of that into specialized assignments or other assignments that would equip you to become a sergeant because no one was willing to, to select you for those. And so it was generally almost viewed as if you got through the selection process on to the department, it was viewed as you were fortunate but there was no real value in being on the department unless it was an ethnic issue of community relations or something in which, at that time, the view was a black officer working with, working to solve a black problem but not necessarily that black officer could solve universal problems, and so you were just viewed as being on the department. Many times also realize in the '60s [1960s], when the Black Panther Movement and the riots occurred, concerned, black officers were being suspected of being subversives inside the organization. Black officers were surveilled just like black residents. Black officers were dealing, they, black officers started a black police association, it was viewed as a subversive unit within the police department 'cause why would blacks all want to come together. And you heard people say well, we're all one LAPD [Los Angeles Police Department] and, and why would blacks need an association and the white officers don't have an association, I said, you do, you have LAPD and so, you know. But these were the, and this was not just in Los Angeles [California], I joined at a very young age an organization called International Association of Chiefs of Police. And I used to go to the conventions and there were few, if any, black officers in those associations, few, if any, received any committee assignments. And in fact, even in the police department deputy chiefs used to call me in and wonder why I went to these association meetings, did I go on my own time, how did I get there, what was the reason for my participation, because they couldn't understand why a black sergeant and lieutenant would have an interest in going and finding out what was going on in law enforcement on a larger scale. And so those were the kind of biases that many of the, the issues of the department was far beyond where people were using racial slurs but it was clear that there was no open armed approach of acceptance nor was there willingness to help facilitate and there was a constant questioning of, of being suspect. We used to laugh about it as black officers, if you wore a natural and a leather jacket you were just viewed as a Black Panther whether you did anything or not, it was just viewed as you took on a image of a negative in which the police department was associated with.$One of the things that was most obvious, our people that were investigating went into Rampart [Division, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)] station and they found that their locker room in very graphic terms and paintings, was actually named "The Yard" which is a term used in prisons. And we thought that was a little strange that we'd have a division that was run by a captain, two or three captains, where a deputy chief would be in that division routinely and no one thought it was unusual that you named your locker room "The Yard." So we began to assess that. We found that there was many things because of the volume of work, that there's a lot of corners being cut, that people thought they were different, they didn't have to comply with the rules, they thought they were special, these are the things that began to identify that there were a group of officers that were working outside of the bounds of what our manual said. As we went forward we began to concentrate on Rafael Perez who came to our attention through a variety of ways. And what we found in surveilling him that he conducted himself much as a drug dealer. He would cut, basically take himself off the freeway, make U-turns, find a, he kept having these surveillance tactics that he thought he was being followed. And so we pretty well zeroed in that Rafael Perez was the guy, we began to concentrate on it. At the same time we, we had another incident that was corollary but not directly related. We had a young officer by the name of David Mack that actually robbed a bank and he was best friends with Rafael Perez. And so putting all these things together in the prosecution, we identified that Rafael Perez was the guy that actually had stolen the narcotics and we prosecuted him. There was a hung jury. And so they released him but we continued the investigation. Well we found out that Rafael Perez, who had worked narcotics and gangs, found there was a hole in the system. And what he found out was that as long as a case was active, there was a great deal of systems in place that monitored where the narcotics was, who had it, was it checked back in, did it go to court, did it get left in court, but what he found out that if a case was dissolved, was disposed, that they had no further court hearings on it, there was very lax kinds of controls. So he'd go out into a property room and check out drugs on cases that had already been resolved. And he'd take 'em, and he would slit 'em open and he would replace the cocaine with sugar or other kinds of powder. He would return them and he always would use someone else's serial number to do that. He also knew that when we disposed of drugs, what, what our normal practice was, we would take it out to some place that they were gonna burn the drugs or we'd do a random check of the drugs to determine what was in the package with the quality and the quantity, and so he had a great chance of his packages not ever being randomly checked, so this stuff would go through. So when we found he was doing that and, and basically confronted him, he basically said I give, no one knew I was doing that and for you to figure that out, I give. And he began to tell us a variety of things that he said was going on in Rampart. And he talked about officers stealing drugs from suspects, he talked about officers abusing suspects. We also found that, although it wasn't him, another officer actually shot a suspect, a young man by the name of, of [Javier] Ovando, and basically planted a gun on Ovando, later went to court and testified and watched them send Ovando to prison for sixteen years. And so all these things began to come to our attention. We identified about a 130 cases that were probably tainted because we had no other evidence except this group of officers' testimony. And so we went to the DA [district attorney] and said these cases needed to be disposed of because you can't justify the prosecution because you can't believe the officers.