Nothing reflects the new image of the Los Angeles Police Department better than its new chief, Bernard C. Parks. During his swearing-in speech last August, the 54-year-old head cop pointed out that he still wears the same size uniform that he wore when he was a cadet at the Police Academy 34 years ago. And in post-O.J. L.A., “Having a chief who’s handsome and physically fit sends a message to the ranks about how they should represent themselves,” says BET Tonight host Tavis Smiley.
Commanding 9,600 officers and 3,000 civilian employees keeps Parks on the move. He works 12-hour days and spends evenings speaking at community events. Rising at 5 a.m. (“I can do well with only five hours of sleep”), he reads several newspapers, prepares for his daily meetings, then showers and dresses. Before leaving the house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Bobbi, a v.p. for a printing company, he applies a dab of cologne (Angel and Givenchy’s Gentleman are among his favorites) and a spritz of Dark & Lovely hair oil spray.
Though the 6’2½” Parks is intent on getting flabby L.A. cops into shape by awarding medals to the fittest, he’s not one for the gym himself. He bikes occasionally, but “I try not to work out,” he admits. “I do keep an eye on my weight, though.” The chief must have a good metabolism. “He’s the only person I know who can survive on a diet of ice cream and it never shows up,” says his son Bernard Jr., 24, a television news writer and the youngest of Parks’s four children. “He’s in remarkable shape.”
At least one L.A. contingent agrees. Parks “attracts a lot of excitement from the ladies,” says John W. Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League. Bernard Jr. can vouch for that; “When I started dating,” he recalls, “girls would say, ‘We think you’re cute, but your father…’ ”