LAPD survey finds complaints about discipline bias

AP News
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Posted: Nov 14, 2014 11:28 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A survey of 500 Los Angeles Police Department employees found widespread concerns among officers and civilians that the department's internal discipline system is deeply flawed and discriminates based on gender, ethnicity and rank, according to an internal report released Friday.

Many of those interviewed said they believed internal investigations were unfair and that punishments were subjective, according to the report.

Among the complaints are that the department overlooks misconduct by high-ranking officials, that discipline is influenced by public and media pressures, and that nepotism infects the disciplinary process.

Comments by employees included "discipline is not imposed when it involves managers and supervisors" and that "friends and family members of higher ranking officers are protected from discipline."

Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the department's review confirmed the union's long-held belief that "the LAPD internal discipline system is broken."

The report, however, also contained data that raised doubts about some of those perceptions of bias. Statistics compiled by the LAPD show that the ethnic, gender and rank breakdown of officers sent to disciplinary panels for suspensions or termination roughly matches the demographics of the LAPD as a whole.

White officers, for example, make up 36 percent of the department and 35 percent of officers sent to a Board of Rights disciplinary hearing for a lengthy suspension or termination. Black officers account for 12 percent of officers and 14 percent of those sent to such hearings, according to the report.

The report, however, did not analyze concerns that "the disciplinary system itself is flawed and that investigations, adjudications and penalties are inconsistent."

Police Chief Charlie Beck ordered the report more than 20 months ago after former officer Christopher Dorner went on a deadly shooting rampage across Southern California. In a rambling online document, Dorner claimed that he was seeking retribution after being unfairly fired and was the victim of racial discrimination within the department.

The concerns of an inconsistent and unjust discipline system echoed those of the civilian oversight commission's most senior member, Rob Saltzman, who cast the lone dissenting vote on reappointing Beck as chief in August. Saltzman spoke of a number of cases he saw as troubling because discipline was too lenient or didn't match punishment in similar cases.

The report issued six recommendations with numerous actions to improve officer education about the discipline system, increase transparency and ensure more consistency.

"The LAPD must hold its personnel accountable for misconduct while ensuring a fair, just and effective system," the report concludes.

The Police Commission is scheduled to review the findings and recommendations at its meeting next week.