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LAPD Officers Surveyed

Recent LAPD Survey shows disparity and bias in disciplinary system

The LAPD’s chickens have come home to roost. A Los Angeles Times article this Thursday reports that an internal LAPD survey—completed amidst a chorus of unfair discipline by its officers and at the behest of Police Chief Charlie Beck—shows that the department's officers feel the Chief is unfair and biased on discipline issues. Well, in record numbers, LAPD officers are now feeling empowered enough to speak truthfully about LAPD's internal processes. Officers who probably once pledged their undying loyalty to that department, officers who bleed blue, officers who never thought they would see the day… are now seeing the light.

I've said repeatedly that I do not condone the actions of fired LAPD officer Christopher Dorner. Still, last year, as we watched and waited for Dorner's execution in the mountains of San Bernardino, I knew that his complaints of racial discrimination and harassment by the department would be lost amid the havoc created by his decision to take innocent lives. I knew that Dorner had been driven to murder out of frustration with the crushing power of the LAPD machine. I knew because as a retired LAPD sergeant I, too, had been the victim of discrimination, harassment and a capricious official hearing. Trying to overturn his firing, Dorner filed lawsuits and met a wall. Now, these [current] LAPD officers surveyed have jumped over that wall to expose the unfairness that occurs during a LAPD disciplinary process.

Add to that, three LAPD captains have recently filed lawsuits, reporting that they suffered retaliation from higher ranking command staff officers when they did not fire officers Chief Beck sent to one of these hearings, called Board of Rights (BOR). You see, Chief Beck, with his ultimate power as the Chief, fully expects “since taking over as Chief that, in most cases, if he sends an officer before a hearing board it is because he believes the officer is guilty of serious misconduct and should be fired”—according to the LA Times article.

Whatever happened to the concept of an officer being considered innocent until proven guilty? What about providing evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt of that guilt. And what about fair and transparent? Since at least March 2014, we have known that there is wiggle room in the "in most cases" part of Chief Beck's stance. Witness LAPD Officer Shaun Hillman, who was found guilty of making racial slurs and false and misleading statements—lies, in other words. Chief Beck overturned his BOR's termination recommendation.

The public has been led to believe that a BOR hearing consists of a three-member panel, which, if an officer is found guilty, is supposed to reach an “independent” decision on the punishment to be meted out. But that is a myth. A BOR is expected to terminate; except in those other cases. What many in the public don’t know is that the Police Chief also has the ability to lessen a BOR decision as in Officer Hillman’s 65-day suspension—which I like to refer to as a “gift from the chief”.

This recent survey reported in the LA Times did not tell Beck anything he did not already know. Chief Beck grew up on the LAPD. Chief Beck has been a participant observer to the BOR process. Chief Beck has watched the department move from a “bail schedule” system, if you will, to one that “seems to emphasize the uniqueness of each officer’s case.” Rather, this survey revealed that Beck can no longer claim there are no inherent problems with the LAPD's disciplinary system.

Those of us who had spent more than a couple of Code 7s on the department—Code 7 is term used to signify lunch time—knew absolutely that Christopher Dorner accurately portrayed the way LAPD command staff will go after an officer who does not have his or her cart connected to the right horse.

Those of us who had spent more than a couple of Code 7s on the department—Code 7 is term used to signify lunch time—knew absolutely that Christopher Dorner accurately portrayed the way LAPD command staff will go after an officer who does not have his or her cart connected to the right horse.

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I certainly know this to be true. In 1997, I experienced that arbitrary, capricious BOR—more affectionately referred to as a kangaroo court, by those of us who have sat before one.

This was true in 1997 when I was ordered to one. That appears to have been the case when Christopher Dorner made his allegations against the department and it seems to be happening right now with LAPD Sergeant Jim Parker.

Sergeant Parker is the supervisor involved in the Daniele Watts (Django Unchained actress) debacle. In my opinion, Parker saved the department thousands of dollars by disproving racial discrimination when he made available an audio tape of Ms. Watts allegedly behaving badly. For his effort, Sergeant Parker is now facing a BOR. Why you ask? Because Chief Beck can.

I appreciate those three LAPD captains for taking a stand against what looks like a “drunk with power” mentality at the head of the LAPD. I hope that this revelation will finally put an end to a sometimes overzealous, intellectually dishonest Internal Affairs advocate who will lie to sustain an allegation of misconduct against a police officer. I hope this latest development will provide the spine future BOR members will need when going against a police chief's edicts.

More-from-Cheryl-Dorsey

I didn’t need a survey to affirm that an Internal Affairs advocate will lie. I didn’t need a survey to support my declaration that Internal Affairs and thus the BOR are not always fair. I didn’t need a survey to substantiate that there's a reward when an Internal Affairs advocate and thus the sworn BOR members acquiesce with a chief's wishes.

In 1997 when I was ordered to that BOR, then Sergeant Horace Frank, assigned to Internal Affairs as the department advocate, came after me. Horace Frank had no problem lying in trying to convince the BOR to fire me. Horace Frank, in my opinion, was nothing like those three LAPD captains who now refuse to fire someone "just because." No, Horace Frank wanted to promote. Horace Frank seemingly wanted to “win”. And by winning, I mean he wanted me to be fired. And so now, Commander Horace Frank sits at the highest right hand in the department. Thankfully, my cart was attached to the right horse, Commander James Tatreau. A man with a spine. An LAPD command staff officer who was not afraid of the “powers that be”.

That was then and this is now. Not much has changed. Despite Chief Beck’s assertions to the contrary, rank and file police officers have had enough. LAPD officers appear to understand that you cannot change what you tolerate and that silence is agreement. This survey ends their silence. Chief Beck can’t just wave his wand and proclaim, “It is so because I said it is so”.

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Chief, please sir, just do right, because it is right and eventually it will start to feel right.

Cheryl Dorsey
Black & Blue