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Former Los Angeles Police Chief Running for City Council - 2002-06-18

Former Los Angeles police chief Bernard Parks, denied a second term in his job by city officials, has launched a campaign for city council. He had some help from a sports legend in his first public appearance as a political candidate.

One hundred supporters were on hand at the Magic Johnson Theatres in the heart of South-Central Los Angeles, a minority neighborhood where Mr. Parks has many friends. Former basketball star Magic Johnson is now the neighborhood's most prominent businessman. He pledged his support to the former police chief.

"He's a strong, tall man who holds his head up high. And we need a leader like that now who doesn't compromise. He can't be bought off," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Parks is running for the Los Angeles a city council seat which will come open next year when the incumbent moves on because of a term-limit restriction. Mr. Parks, an African-American, is favored to win the district, which is predominantly black and Hispanic.

The former chief was forced from his job at the helm of the city's police force because of sinking morale in the wake of a corruption scandal. He lost the support of the mayor, who wanted faster implementation of reforms in the department. The chief also lost the support of most rank-and-file officers, who called him autocratic.

As he formally launched his election campaign, Mr. Parks addressed the question of how he would adjust to the fractious city council. "People have asked me, particularly the media, saying, 'how are you going to adjust to 14 council people?' And I've always asked them, 'no, the question is how are they going to adjust to Bernard Parks?'" he said.

Mr. Parks said his priorities include bringing down the crime rate and practical issues like keeping the roads repaired. The election will be held next March.