Labor & Employment

Police union sues LAPD chief, alleging he encourages review board to discipline officers

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The Los Angeles police union registered its displeasure with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck on Thursday with a federal lawsuit alleging he has a “corrupting influence” on officer discipline, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The federal lawsuit accuses Beck of pressuring a review board to return guilty verdicts. That violates officers’ due process rights, the lawsuit says.

Unusually, the lawsuit also calls for the review board to contain more civilians. Currently, under the LA city charter, the review board must contain two high-ranking LAPD officials and one civilian. Those two officers owe their rank to the chief, the lawsuit says, which creates pressure to find officers accused of misconduct guilty and impose the chief’s preferred punishment.

As evidence, the lawsuit points to separate lawsuits by four LAPD captains, alleging that they were punished for disagreeing with Beck’s recommendations for discipline. The penalties are generally termination or long suspensions, the Times says.

Beck told the newspaper that he’s sent 184 officers to the review board over the past five years, and almost 100 have been found not guilty or given lesser penalties. He believes the union wants civilians on the review board because civilians tend to be more lenient.

Craig Lally, president of the union, said those statistics are suspect because many officers plead to lesser charges to avoid a board ruling that could get them fired.

The union not made a secret about its unhappiness with Beck. Earlier this month, it publicly implicated Beck in an increase in crime, saying he’d taken too many officers off patrol duty. That came a week after Beck publicly recommended discipline in a fatal on-duty shooting in Venice Beach, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. In that case, LAPD officers concluded that Brandon Glenn was on his stomach, trying to rise, when an officer shot him in the back. The officer’s partner told investigators he didn’t know why the officer fired at Glenn.

Lally told the Times that his union nearly reached an agreement this month with city officials to change the structure of the review board—but City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office suggested that the changes might not be legal. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office confirmed the discussions but said the mayor feels the lawsuit is unnecessary.

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