LA Police Union Says Chief Corrupts Hearings

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A powerful police officers’ union Thursday sued Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, claiming he pressures captains on disciplinary boards to fire officers and retaliates if they rule against him.
     The Los Angeles Police Protective League sued Los Angeles and Beck in a federal complaint of due process violations.
     Beck immediately hit back during a radio interview.
     “I would never taint the system. That’s not the type of person I am,” Beck told KNX radio, a CBS affiliate.
     The union, which represents 9,000 LAPD officers, says the independent Board of Rights panel, which handles officer disciplinary proceedings, is corrupted because commanders who sit on it “owe their present position and future prospects” to Beck.
     According to the 11-page lawsuit, the board hears allegations against officers only after Beck has already concluded that they are guilty of misconduct.
     “The inherent pressure built into the board of rights system for board-eligible officers to find an officer guilty of misconduct – and to impose a specific punishment, which is almost always termination – infringes upon a police officer’s due process right to a neutral decisionmaker in disciplinary proceedings which could end his or her career,” the complaint states.
     Beck called into KNX radio Thursday and said the union’s claims are “not true.”
     He said in past five years there had been 26 not-guilty rulings in 184 Board of Rights cases. In 64 cases guilty findings included a penalty that did not lead to firing, the chief said.
     “If it’s a system that I’m corrupting, then I’m not doing a very good job of it,” Beck said.
     But the Protective League’s President Craig Lally told the radio station there is “mountains of evidence” that the system is corrupt. He said the league wants civilians to replace command officers on the panel.
     “We actually want civilian review, and three civilians on our panel,” Lally said.
     The union says in the lawsuit that Beck pressured several captains to fire officers appearing before the board and retaliated against them if they disagreed. Several captains heard “board-eligible officers indicate their intent to find an officer guilty simply because the chief wanted them to do so,” the union says in the complaint.
     The captains’ “extraordinary” allegations were made in four whistleblower and retaliation lawsuits in Superior Court, the union says.
     Citing the filings, the union says that one captain was warned after he disagreed with Beck that the chief considers officers’ decisions on the board when considering promotions.
     Another officer said he was told Beck was “disappointed” by a ruling against the chief and would receive training on how to handle the disciplinary hearings.
     Officers who escaped termination would be sent to the acquitting captains’ divisions as “punishment,” the union says.
     “As a result, police officers accused of misconduct are deprived of the neutral decision-makers to which they are entitled under due process jurisprudence,” the complaint states.
     But Beck said that of the 100 officers on the hearing boards, four had criticized him because they did not get the promotions they were expecting “or had other actions levied against them for other kinds of misconduct.”
     Only Capt. Peter Whittingham’s case against the city has gone to trial. A jury in April found the city “free from bias” and “free from guilt,” Beck said.
     “I think that this is oftentimes people that are unwilling to accept responsibility for what’s happened to them in their careers and they’re trying to offset it toward me,” Beck said.
     The Police Protective League seeks an injunction and order voiding all Board of Right hearings while the case is pending and staying hearings “pending reformation of the Board of Rights process.”
     It seeks declaratory judgment that the disciplinary process violates due process under the 14th Amendment and the California Constitution.
     The complaint cites these lawsuits in L.A. Superior Court: Whittingham v. City of Los Angeles (Case No. BC542732); Ruiz v. City of Los Angeles (Case No. BC554102); Carranza v. City of Los Angeles (Case No. BC561557) and Justice v. City of Los Angeles (Case No.
     BC581567).
     The Police Protective League is represented by Jacob Kalinski with Silver, Hadden, Silver & Levine, who did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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