A Los Angeles police captain testified Wednesday he was denied promotions for objecting to what he says is Chief Charlie Beck’s belief that all officers sent to Board of Rights hearings should be fired.
“I’m convinced of that,” Capt. Byford “Peter” Whittingham told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of his lawsuit against the city.
Whittingham referred to a 2012 meeting he had with now-retired Deputy Chief Stephen Jacobs about possible career advancements in the LAPD. He said Jacobs told him that the recommendations of some of his Board of Rights panels that suggested punishment less than termination did not always coincide with the chief’s expectations.
“I was shell-shocked,” Whittingham said. “I was silent for most of the rest of the conversation. I was almost numb.”
Whittingham was one of two captains who sat with a civilian on many Board of Rights hearings to weigh evidence about officers accused of serious misconduct and make recommendations to Beck about any possible punishment.
Whittingham maintains that in addition to his Board of Rights panel recommendations, he was disfavored because he questioned if race played a role in the discipline of some minority lawmen.
Whittingham said Beck was present when Deputy Chief Mark Perez told a meeting of captains that officers referred to Board of Rights hearings were sent there with the expectation that they would be fired. He said the remark caused many captains in the audience to look around the room, roll their eyes and whisper to each other.
Whittingham recounted for jurors how Board of Rights panels on which he sat recommended 22-day suspensions rather than termination for two officers, one accused of having an improper relationship with a police cadet and the other alleged to have made offensive remarks about a female sergeant.
The captain said that in each case, the panel believed some of the most serious allegations against the officers were filed too late.
Whittingham said he was pleased to hear Beck’s testimony Monday that officers at Board of Rights hearings should be found not guilty if the evidence against them was not sufficient. But he said the statement was in contrast to what he and other panel members previously believed.
“That was not the impression I and other captains had at the time, I can tell you that,” Whittingham testified.
Whittingham was given his first promotion within the captain rank in 2014, when he was elevated to captain 2 after having served as a captain 1 since 2009.
Beck testified that Whittingham’s promotion came shortly after his lawsuit was filed, but that the legal action had nothing to do with his decision.
Whittingham joined the LAPD in 1988 and currently heads the Criminal Gang Homicide Division, which is located within the South Bureau.
— Wire reports