Today, LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck was right. The Chief fired disgraced LAPD Detective Frank Lyga who had been found guilty, at an administrative Board of Rights (BOR), of making racist remarks and disparaging comments. As a retired LAPD sergeant and often vocal critic of the Los Angeles Police Department, I thought it important to applaud the Chief’s decision to fire Detective Frank Lyga.
During an LAPD sponsored in-service training class, Lyga made what has now been determined to be racist and offensive remarks regarding the shooting of off-duty, black, LAPD officer Kevin Gaines, Civil Rights attorneys Johnnie Cochran (deceased) and Carl Douglas as well as LAPD Captain Lilian Carranza. The purported offense was reported in the media earlier this year and has just concluded with a disciplinary recommendation by the BOR to Chief Beck calling for Lyga’s termination.
There seems to be a lack of uniformity in the way discipline is administered amongst the rank and file. It would appear that if an officer has the right sponsor, exceptions can be made.
It’s important to understand that as the police chief, Beck had the option of agreeing with the BOR’s recommendation or reducing Lyga’s penalty. While it is true that a broken clock is right twice a day, rather than accept that the clock will on its own reflect the correct time occasionally, it's far better that we attempt to fix the clock. In this case, the clock is symbolic of the LAPD’s broken disciplinary system.
Currently, there seems to be a lack of uniformity in the way discipline is administered amongst the rank and file. It would appear that if an officer has the right sponsor, exceptions can be made. Witness the case which involving Officer Shaun Hillman. Officer Hillman is the relative of a former high-ranking LAPD command staff officer. Hillman had been found guilty of false and misleading statements at his BOR, which resulted in a termination recommendation to Chief Beck. In that case, Chief Beck chose leniency and reduced Hillman’s penalty to a 65-day suspension.
The fact that a disciplinary outcome for two very similar offenses (both involved in racial slurs, in part) could have such a wide variance at their conclusion illustrates the need for reform within the LAPD’s disciplinary system.
To that end, I think first it would be helpful if the internal investigations were conducted by an independent, outside law enforcement entity. For example, the LA Sheriff’s Department could investigate LAPD and vice versa. A relationship of this sort could eliminate the probability of bias and conforming self-interest to appease your agency.
Secondly, a Board of Rights should consist of retired judges, not affiliated with the department, to be chosen by lottery.
And finally, a penalty schedule that is commensurate with the misconduct and applied in a more structured manner versus the arbitrary nature of the current disciplinary system.
If adapted, these recommendations would be good first steps in restoring morale and creating a fair and coherent process.