The LAPD’s chickens have come home to roost. A recent LA Times article reports an internal LAPD survey completed amidst a chorus of unfair discipline by its’ officers and at the behest of Police Chief Charlie Beck found that LAPD officers feel the chief is unfair and impartial as it relates to discipline. Well, in record numbers, LAPD officers are now feeling empowered enough to speak truthfully about the internal processes of the LAPD. Officers who probably once pledged their undying loyalty to that department, officers who bleed blue, officers who never thought they would see the day… are now seeing the light.
Let me again state that I do not condone the actions of fired LAPD officer Christopher Dorner. However, last year as we watched and waited for Dorner’s execution in the mountains of San Bernardino, I knew that his complaints of racial discrimination and harassment by the department would be lost on his decision to take innocent lives. I knew that Dorner had been driven, to murder, out of frustration and the crushing power of the LAPD machine. I knew because as a retired LAPD sergeant I too had been the victim of discrimination, harassment and a capricious Board of Rights (BOR). Dorner filed lawsuits in an attempt to overturn his firing and met a wall. Now, these [current] LAPD officers surveyed have jumped over that wall to expose the unfairness that occurs during a LAPD disciplinary process.
Add to that, three LAPD captains have recently filed lawsuits which reports they suffered retaliation themselves from higher ranking LAPD command staff officers when the captains did not fire an officer sent to a Board of Rights hearing (BOR) by Chief Beck. You see, Chief Beck, with his ultimate power as the chief, fully expects “since taking over as chief that, in most cases, if he sends an officer before a hearing board it is because he believes the officer is guilty of serious misconduct and should be fired.” This, according to a LA Times article.
Whatever happened to the concept of an officer being considered innocent until proven guilty? What about providing evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt of that guilt. And what about fair and transparent? In regards to the statement, ”in most cases” we know since March 2014, that there is wiggle room in that hypothesis, a la LAPD Officer Shaun Hillman. Hillman was found guilty of making racial slurs and false and misleading (lying) statements;Chief Beck over-turned his BOR’s termination recommendation.
The public has been led to believe that a BOR consists of a three panel board which is supposed to reach an “independent” decision on the punishment meted out if an officer is found guilty; but factually that is a myth. A BOR is expected to terminate; except in those other cases. What many in the public don’t know is that the Police Chief also has the ability to lessen a BOR decision as in Officer Hillman’s 65 day suspension which; I like to refer to as a “gift from the chief”.
This recent survey did not tell Beck anything that he did not already know. Chief Beck grew up on the LAPD. Chief Beck has been a participant observer to the BOR process. Chief Beck has watched the department move from a “bail schedule” system if you will to one that “seems to “emphasize the uniqueness of each officer’s case.” Rather, this survey revealed that Beck can no longer purport there are “no inherent problems” with this disciplinary system.
Those of us who had spent more than a couple of code 7s on the department (code-7 is term used to signify lunch time) knew absolutely that Christopher Dorner was right and accurate in his portrayals of how the command staff on the LAPD will go after an officer who does not have their cart connected to the right horse.
I certainly know this to be true because in 1997 I experienced that arbitrary, capricious BOR – more affectionately referred to, by those of us who have sat before it, as a kangaroo court.
This was true in 1997 when I was ordered to one. That appears to have been the case when Christopher Dorner made his allegations against the department and it seems to be happening right now with LAPD Sergeant Jim Parker.
Sergeant Parker is the supervisor involved in the Daniele Watts (Django Unchained actress) debacle. Sergeant Parker, in my opinion, saved the department thousands of dollars by disproving racial discrimination when he made available an audio tape of Ms. Watts allegedly behaving badly. For his effort, Sergeant Parker is now facing a BOR. Why you ask? Because Chief Beck can.
I appreciate those three LAPD captains for taking a stand against what looks like a “drunken with power” mentality at the head of the LAPD. I hope that this revelation will finally put an end to a sometimes over-zealous, intellectually dishonest internal affairs advocate who will lie in pursuit of sustaining an allegation of misconduct against a police officer. I hope this will provide the spine that future BOR members can defer to when going against the edicts of a police chief.
I didn’t need a survey to affirm that an IA advocate will lie. I didn’t need a survey to support my declaration that IA and thus the BOR are not always fair. I didn’t need a survey to substantiate that when an IA advocate and thus the (sworn) BOR members acquiesce with a chief that there is a reward.
In 1997 when I was ordered to a BOR, then sergeant Horace Frank assigned to IA as the department advocate came after me. Horace Frank had no problem lying as he tried to convince the BOR to fire me. Horace Frank, in my opinion, was nothing like those three LAPD captains who refuse to fire someone just because. No, Horace Frank wanted to promote. Horace Frank seemingly wanted to “win”. And by winning, I mean he wanted me to be fired. And so now, Commander Horace Frank sits at the right hand of the devil. Thankfully, my cart was attached to the right horse, Commander James Tatreau. A man with a spine. A command staff officer of the LAPD who was not afraid of the “powers that be”.
That was then and this is now. Not much has changed. Despite Chief Beck’s assertions to the contrary, rank and file police officers have had enough. LAPD officers appear to understand that you cannot change what you tolerate and silence is agreement. This survey ends their silence. Chief Beck can’t just wave his wand and proclaim, “It is so because I said it is so”.
Chief, please sir, just do right, because it is right and eventually it will start to feel right.