Still on the case of why L.A. should take the legacy and name of it’s most notoriously racist police chief to the new Police Administration Building, I talked to a man I just knew would have something to say about Chief William H. Parker—my old boss and California’s first Black Senator, Lt. Governor, America’s first foreign born member of Congress, and elected twice to serve in the California Assembly…Mervyn Dymally.
After laughing a bit while recalling his interaction with the L.A.P.D. back in the 60s, he shared with me that Chief Parker told him that he was an illegal immigrant and should go back to wherever it is he came from. He also told me that he was one of those people that whose phones were being tapped by the L.A.P.D. under orders of Chief Parker that U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt mentioned in his letter this week to Anthony Pacheco, Police Commission president:
Dear Commissioner Pacheco:
I write you not in my capacity as a federal judge, but as a former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, as a longtime resident of the city of Los Angeles, and as a former vice chairman of the California Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, which held hearings on the practices of the Los Angeles Police Department while William H. Parker was chief of police.
I read in the Los Angeles Times about the naming of the new police department building. Unfortunately, I must leave tomorrow for San Francisco and therefore will not have an opportunity to appear in person at the commission meeting on Tuesday.
I write to oppose the naming of the new building after Chief Parker. In addition to the racist comments regarding African-Americans … , you should be aware that Chief Parker also stated that Latinos in Los Angeles were “not far removed from the wild tribes of Mexico.” His bigotry knew no lines, at least as far as minorities were concerned.
Moreover, when I returned to Los Angeles following law school in 1958, I learned that a number of people used to answer their phones by saying “F— you, Chief Parker.” The joke reflected the fact that it was well known that members of the Los Angeles Police Department were tapping the phones of people in whose political activities they or Chief Parker were interested.
Finally, it is a fact that the police intelligence squads used to photograph persons of political interest arriving or departing from the Los Angeles Airport, as well as in other places, partly, at least, in order to collect information that would be of political value. For example, Chief Parker showed pictures of then-Attorney General and later Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk, accompanied by a purported girlfriend named Sabrina, to then-Governor Edmund G. Brown. Attorney General Mosk was at that time planning to run for the United States Senate but withdrew from the race after word of the pictures circulated throughout the California political world.
In general, the department’s activities under Chief Parker contributed to racial divisions in our city and violated the constitutional rights of many of Los Angeles’ citizens of all ethnic backgrounds.
Although there is no doubt that Chief Parker ended the prior widespread corruption in the police department, his contempt for the individual rights of citizens, and particularly for the rights of minorities, simply substituted one form of evil for another. Fortunately, we have now moved well beyond the outdated attitudes that permeated the department under the reign of Chief Parker. I believe that it would be as serious error, and an insult to the substantial number of minority residents of our city, to honor the memory of our long-departed chief by now naming our new police department building in his honor. I recommend naming the building simply Lois Angeles Police Department Headquarters.
I enclose four copies of this letter for distribution to the other members of the commission. I am also sending copies to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti.