Police Chief Charlie Beck. Photo by John Schreiber.
Police Chief Charlie Beck. Photo by John Schreiber.

Chief Charlie Beck denied Monday that a Los Angeles Police captain was treated unfairly because it took five years to promote him within his rank.

Beck also said the man’s lawsuit against the city played no role in ultimately granting him the advancement.

Testifying before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury, Beck repeatedly said that he tries to pick the right person for command staff jobs based on recommendations given him by those who report to him.

Asked by Assistant City Attorney Wayne Song if he was “throwing a bone” to Byford “Peter” Whittingham by granting him a promotion from captain 1 to captain 2 shortly after the plaintiff sued in April 2014, Beck replied, “No, I wouldn’t do that.”

Under cross-examination by Whittingham’s lawyer, Gregory W. Smith, Beck said some of his upper command members were concerned about promoting someone who was suing the city, but the chief said he could not remember who those individuals were. He also said he brushed aside such worries because it would be illegal to take a lawsuit into consideration when deciding whether to advance someone in the department.

Whittingham’s lawsuit alleges he was retaliated with a delayed promotion for not abiding by what he maintains is Beck’s belief that all officers sent to Board of Rights hearings on serious misconduct allegations should be fired and because in his role as a captain he questioned if race played a role in the discipline of some minority officers.

Whittingham, who is black, originally also alleged he was a victim of discrimination, but he later dropped the claim. He currently is head of the LAPD’s Criminal Gang Homicide Division and makes more than $150,000 annually.

In his testimony, Beck said he does not believe all officers sent to Board of Rights hearings should be fired.

“I expect the captains to find the truth and if the evidence does not uphold the charges I expect the officer to be found not guilty,” Beck said.

The chief also said he does not put pressure on captains to recommend that officers sent to Board of Rights hearings lose their jobs.

Beck said he believes Whittingham has “occasionally” had a negative impact on the morale of those who have worked for him, but he said that assessment is based on what others have told him rather than on his own personal evaluation.

“I don’t know how you gauge morale other than having someone tell you,” Beck testified.

Beck also testified he also has been told Whittingham can seem “aloof and detached.” He said one command staff member told him that detectives working for Whittingham had a “tough time adjusting to his leadership style.”

Beck said that although some captains are promoted within rank within a matter of months rather than years, there are “hundreds of points” he considers before making a decision. He said vacancies occur typically because of retirements, but can be unpredictable as to timing.

The chief also said he believes Whittingham’s background and ability to work with the community make him the right person to head the Criminal Gang Homicide Division, which is located within the South Bureau, which has the LAPD’s highest homicide rate.

“I think he is the exact, right fit for that job,” Beck said.

—Staff and wire reports

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