Lygagate: Why Detective Frank Lyga Has Got to Go

Detective Frank LygaThe Los Angeles Police Department wants you to say something if you see something. Yet, last fall when a room full of police officers witnessed a veteran detective making racially charged comments about shooting black men and vulgar insults about command staff’s sexual behavior during a training lecture—almost no one had anything to say. Instead, they laughed, snickered, and applauded at the end.

Detective Frank Lyga, a 28-year veteran of the LAPD has been put on administrative duty after audio surfaced of that training. Lyga, whose claim to fame is the 1997 shooting death of an off-duty LAPD officer Kevin Gaines, can be heard recounting a conversation with civil rights attorney Carl Douglas.

Lyga says on the audio that his only regret regarding the shooting was that Gaines was alone in the truck at the time and that he could have “killed a whole truckload of them” and “would have been happily doing so.”

Lyga claimed self-defense and the department, under then Police Chief Bernard Parks, exonerated him of any wrongdoing. However, the investigation into the shooting is what led to the Rampart scandal.

Since the release of the audio publicly, Lyga has confirmed to the media that it is his voice. Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that Lyga has been removed from the field and placed on administrative dutypending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

But what can we really expect from Chief Beck when it comes to Lyga’s investigation and discipline? After all, Lyga is a veteran detective known for making high-profile drug busts and he’s white.

On the audio, Lyga at one point says that he “doesn’t give a fuck” and that he’s “not afraid of command staff.”

I believe him. Administrative duty is not off-duty. It means that he gets to hang out at the office with the same people who apparently find his brand of humor amusing, as demonstrated in the audio.

But perhaps Lygagate will force the department to do something different. This scandal breaks at a time when the Beck is being considered for re-appointment for another five-year term. It also comes right on the heels of Beck’s controversial decision to overrule recommendations from a disciplinary board that a white police officer be fired for using a racial slur towards an African-American during an off-duty altercation at a Norco bar.

Officer Shawn Hillman was given a vacation of 65-days by the department—not for using the n-word but for lying about it to LAPD investigators.

Criticism was raised after it was publicized that Hillman’s father is a retired LAPD officer, and his uncle is a popular former Deputy Chief who rose through the ranks the same time as Beck.

Police Commissioner President Steve Soboroff disagreed with Beck’s decision but Mayor Eric Garcetti said he trusted it.

Hillman was off -duty at the time of his incident. Lyga however was being paid by taxpayers when he decided to tell a room full of police officers that 77th Division Captain Lillian Carranza couldn’t find her ass with both hands because someone else’s hands were always on it and that the “cute little Hispanic lady” had been tossed around the department. The comments oddly drew the loudest laughter from the female officers in the room, which speaks to an even sadder commentary about a department that is always trying to recruit women to join.

Lyga has since said that his words were taken out of context.

I’m not sure how you take out of context “I regret he was alone in the truck at the time. I could have killed a whole truckload of them and I would have been happy doing so.”

It doesn’t matter if the “them” Lyga meant is Black police officers or Black people in general—no member of the LAPD should publicly be taking pride in killing anyone.

It doesn’t matter if the “them” is Black police officers or Black people in general—no member of the LAPD should publicly be taking pride in killing anyone. The fact that this man is training the same police officers who pull over people like me and you should be of concern to everyone in Los Angeles.

Beck has been on a public relations tour touting that today’s LAPD is not the same LAPD it was 20 year ago.

I beg to differ, and so did Christopher Dorner who so eloquently and seemingly correctly pointed out “the department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse. The consent decree should never have been lifted. The only thing that has evolved from the consent decree is those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions.”

Lyga is a relic harking back to the Rampart days Dorner referenced and yes–he’s still in the department, having been promoted over the past 17 years since he shot Kevin Gaines to death. He clearly has a problem with African-Americans but has been allowed to teach his brand of racism and bigotry to younger generations of police officers.

jasmyne cannick

Jasmyne Cannick

There are hundreds of current and former LAPD Black police officers who have witnessed racism towards both civilians and fellow officers at the hands of their white colleagues like Lyga in the department. And while the department tells you and I to report suspicious or criminal behavior, they damn near make that impossible for their own officers to do inside of the department for fear of losing their job or even worse–never being promoted.

Beck, the Police Commission, and the mayor can’t waffle on Lygagate—especially after Hillman, especially after Donald Sterling. If we truly are a city that doesn’t tolerate racism and bigotry, then Lyga has got to go. Anything less smacks of hypocrisy.

Jasmyne A. Cannick
Jasmyne Online

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Comments

  1. Darryl Brown says

    That is exactly why I hate cops here in LA and in Orange County. I am from Texas and as a black man, I have never felt so uncomfortable around cops like the ones here in LA. What also needs to happen is Chief Beck needs to resign. It all starts at the top…Just as you pointed out earlier nothing has changed since Rodney King.

  2. matinah salaam says

    hmmmmmmmmmm. this is truly thought provoking. your credentials are incredibly relevant and speak to the situation in which we now find ourselves as a nation. having dispelled racism and the abhorrent treatment visited upon the negro from slavery and its effects, by substituting the gentler ‘discrimination’ we have managed to avert discussion, reflection, self correction, the strength to request forgiveness, any relevant connection between ol’ timey slavery and the au courant human trafficking. wow. we have come a long way to nowhere. who will replace the racists now in place, who will support them, who will work with them. why is this so hard for us, the entirety of the citizen population of this country to overcome?
    maybe its time to consider the only real alternative we have constitutionally to our current democratic republic of representative government – direct participatory democracy.
    with 2/3 of the registered voter citizenry population so voting, we can change any law in the land.
    we can elect to randomly select all elective, appointive, political civil service office holders to serve 2 year nonrecurrent, nonconcurrent terms on all levels of governance-local/regional/state/federal-in all executive, judicial, legislative fuctions, keeping salaries/benefits in place, from the registered voter citizen population.
    that should end our battle with institutionalized racism and put us on track to rethink our previous socio-political-economic theories re race, power.

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