Political Notebook

Fresno police union head Parks stepping down after 12 years

Jacky Parks, president of the Fresno Police Officers Association, leaves the dais after presenting the Fresno City Council with concerns about the Police Department budget during 2013 budget hearings. Parks, who has been Fresno’s police union president for almost 12 years – twice as long as anyone else who has ever held the job – will not seek reelecton to a seventh term this fall.
Jacky Parks, president of the Fresno Police Officers Association, leaves the dais after presenting the Fresno City Council with concerns about the Police Department budget during 2013 budget hearings. Parks, who has been Fresno’s police union president for almost 12 years – twice as long as anyone else who has ever held the job – will not seek reelecton to a seventh term this fall. Fresno Bee file

Jacky Parks, who has been Fresno’s police union president for almost 12 years – twice as long as anyone else who has ever held the job – will not seek re-election to a seventh term this fall.

Parks, 52, said he feels the union’s current leadership is solid and he can step away knowing his replacement has the ability to handle the demands of the top spot. And, he said, with eight years until his planned retirement, he’s itching to get back into the field.

“I want to be remembered by guys as an officer, not as that union guy,” he said Monday.

So far, the only person seeking the post is Damon Kurtz, the union’s first vice president. Other candidates could also step up for the election to replace Parks, which will be in October.

Of all the city unions, the Fresno Police Officers’ Association is without a doubt the most visible.

Most candidates for Fresno mayor and city council actively seek the FPOA’s endorsement, which they then tout in advertisements. The union also has an active political action committee that doles out campaign cash to candidates it supports.

That shows the union’s clout in the community. It’s also clout that is felt at City Hall.

The most obvious area is police pay, and Parks led the union through a trying time that saw raises for the rank and file, but also wage concessions as the city worked its way through the Great Recession.

“Jacky has incredible leadership skills, and what I have found is he is willing to say what other people are thinking, but afraid to say,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Dyer – who has been chief during Parks’ entire tenure as union president – said he and Parks had intense disagreements but that when necessary, Parks was a pragmatist.

“When other unions were fighting with the city, Jacky was at the table negotiating concessions for the good of the department and the city,” Dyer said. “It’s unfortunate that officers will never know how much Jacky has sacrificed over the past 12 years.”

Parks was president when officers were accused of brutality and others went to trial to battle excessive-force allegations. Not long after he took the job, Parks found himself at odds with Dyer and then-Mayor Alan Autry over a police performance plan that to Parks and his officers sounded an awful lot like setting arrest and citation quotas to get favorable evaluations. The idea eventually fell off the table.

The biggest battle was probably over a police auditor, which Parks fought to the very end. In a show of the pragmatism Dyer spoke about, Parks volunteered to serve on the committee to select an auditor, a position again in the spotlight as the city prepares to elect a replacement for termed-out Mayor Ashley Swearengin and advocates for the poor push to give the post more power.

Parks was first elected as president in October 2004, and sworn in the following month. He and another candidate, Henry Monreal, had challenged first-term incumbent Mike Oliver. Parks left his post as a child abuse detective to run the union. Over the years, he has picked up occasional shifts, but never full-time.

He was re-elected five times, three without opposition.

Now, Parks is ready to the return to the field. With his seniority, he has lots of options, including returning as a detective. But Parks said he has talked it over with his wife and is leaning toward patrol – where he, and every other rookie cop, starts.

“It’s what I started doing,” Parks said. “No job is more important.”

Dyer said Parks will be missed, though he’ll still be around. Dyer said he still plans to use him as a resource.

“We’ve had plenty of battles over the years on issues, but at the end of the day we know we are on the same team,” Dyer said. “Over the years it was much easier when Jacky was on board and we’re going rowing in the same direction.”

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