Former City Councilman and Police Chief Bernard Parks (File photo)

Responding to an ethics complaint alleging he improperly used the city seal and an image of his Los Angeles Police Department badge on a letter he sent to the judge overseeing Mark Ridley-Thomas’ corruption case, former City Councilman and Police Chief Bernard Parks says he merely copied an ID badge the city gave him upon his retirement.

In a letter sent this week to the City Clerk’s Office and obtained by City News Service, Parks wrote that, when he retired from the LAPD in 2002, the city gave him an identification card that features images of both the badge of the chief of police and the city seal.

“I did not solicit this identification card, nor was this a special accommodation, as it is a privilege awarded to all officers who honorably leave the department,” Parks wrote.
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“This particular identification card is significant because, among other things, it allows me to legally carry a gun. But its overarching purpose is to identify me as both a retired member of the LAPD — by way of the badge — and, thus, a retired member of the government of the City of L.A. — by way of the City Seal,” according to the letter.

He also noted that, through the issuance of the card, whether “the city consciously knew it or not, I became a lifetime member of the LAPD and the City Family because, after all, that’s how both entities identified and continue to identify me.”

“I would also ask you consider the context in which I used the letterhead. When writing to a federal judge, I would find it extremely unorthodox for a former public official to omit important identification information,” Parks wrote in his letter.

Parks urged the clerk’s office to provide clarification on rules for the use of the city seal, as well as a legal opinion from the city attorney’s office on the issue. The City Clerk’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last week, Acting City Clerk Petty F. Santos issued a letter to Parks informing him of an ethics complaint and requesting the ex-councilman “to cease and desist” improper use of the city seal.

Parks had sent a letter to the federal judge overseeing Ridley-Thomas’s corruption case, urging her to impose the maximum possible penalty. The letter to U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer uses images of the city seal and Parks’ LAPD chief’s badge at the top of the page.

Santos’ letter, which was obtained by City News Service, says that the complaint was referred to the City Attorney’s Office for investigation under a section of the Los Angeles Municipal Code titled “City Seal-Imitating,” which states no person shall “make or use the seal of this City for any purpose other than for City purposes.”

The clerk’s communication to Parks states that in his letter to the judge, “the City Seal was used in a manner that does not meet a City purpose, per the LAMC.”