November 03, 2022

By Bernard Parks


In recent weeks, our community has been shocked and outraged over the racist sentiments that have been espoused by our City leaders at the highest levels. As voting begins, Angelenos have an important choice to make about who should take on the difficult task of rebuilding trust among our diverse communities of color. I am here to tell you, Rick Caruso has a record of anti-Black behavior that should disqualify him as mayor.

First, Rick Caruso has repeatedly bragged that he was responsible for pushing me out as Police Chief when he was President of the LAPD Police Commission. But that was only half of the story. Caruso helped install my replacement, Bill Bratton, who was disastrous for communities of color in Los Angeles. Bratton brought stop-and-frisk policies to the LAPD, disproportionately harming our Black and Brown communities. How many people were harrassed by police officers because Rick Caruso chose Bill Bratton to lead? If this is any indication of who he will appoint to key positions at City Hall, we have every right to be concerned.

Second, in 2002, Rick Caruso called Congresswoman Maxine Waters a “bitch” in a meeting with police officials.

The LA Times reported on the incident, where Caruso referred to the Congresswoman as “the bitch Waters” during a meeting with top police officials. Caruso refused to comment on using the slur, despite protests demanding his resignation.

Our City is already going through the difficult process of removing City Councilmembers for their disparaging remarks about Black people. We don’t need a mayor with a record of disrespecting leaders in our community.

Third, Rick Caruso’s family was implicated in a racist incident at Brentwood School. In 2016, LA Weekly reported that students from Brentwood School were recorded on Caruso's yacht shouting vulgar song lyrics including the n-word. Caruso did not publicly condemn the incident, nor did he clarify whether his son, who was attending Brentwood School at the time, participated in this heinous act. In fact, Brentwood School, of which Caruso’s family foundation has been a benefactor, has been plagued with allegations of ugly incidents, such as black students allegedly being forced to learn a “cotton picking dance.” I question Caruso’s values, his commitment to accountability, and his willingness to admit wrongdoing when it comes to clearly racist behavior.

Fourth, in Rick Caruso’s campaign, he has resorted to a racist tactic of darkening the skin tone of Karen Bass in advertisements. Faith leaders also called out Caruso’s supporters, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which spent millions of dollars supporting him, for race baiting and for “continuing [to] fan the flames of racial politics.” Caruso did not apologize for his campaign’s actions nor denounce the LAPPL. This is racism.

Finally, Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and Black people should be represented at the highest levels of leadership. The job of mayor includes hiring City officials and making appointments to key boards and commissions. It is concerning to me that, from the surface, Rick Caruso has not listed any Black employees as leaders in his company. I apologize if I’m not accurately describing any of the leaderships’ self-identities, but we should all be concerned that Rick Caruso doesn’t have diverse individuals from the Black or Brown communities leading his companies. We don’t need to be treated as tokens–in the board room or at City Hall.

Rick Caruso is on track to spend $100 million in his campaign for mayor. If you believe his lies, he’ll tell you he’s going to be a mayor for everyone. I can tell you that just isn’t true. We cannot sit this election out. Rick Caruso must be defeated, or our communities will see decades of setbacks. He should never be mayor.

Bernard Parks is the former LAPD Cheif of Police and a former Los Angeles City Councilmember

Category: Opinion