The City Council Wednesday directed the city’s attorneys to draft a proposed ordinance that would give Los Angeles police officers facing disciplinary hearings the option of appearing before an all-civilian review board.
A measure calling for the changes was placed on the May 2017 ballot by the City Council with the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing the department’s rank-and-file officers. Charter Amendment C passed with 57.14 percent of the vote.
The LAPPL has argued the current system is unfair because of the belief that the police chief has undue influence on sworn members of Board of Rights panels, which currently consist of two command-level officers and a civilian, while critics say the proposed changes would weaken the LAPD’s disciplinary system.
Under the proposed ordinance to be drafted by the City Attorney’s Office under the provisions of Charter Amendment C, an officer facing disciplinary action would be able to choose whether his or her case would be reviewed by an all-civilian panel or a traditional board with two sworn officers and one civilian.
Current rules require the civilian to have a clean criminal record and at least seven years experience with arbitration, mediation, administrative hearings or comparable work, which has led the Board of Rights panels to be stocked with many retired judges and lawyers. City Council President Wesson has expressed a desire to change the rules so regular citizens could serve on the panels.
As part of its 10-0 vote, the City Council also directed the Police Commission to make changes to the qualifications for civilian hearing examiners to enhance diversity, increase the number of city residents, and allow for the inclusion of retired police officers who have been off the force at least one year.
Wesson, Garcetti and the council pushed for Measure C to be placed on the ballot despite a study of the LAPD’s system that found civilians have been found to be more lenient on officers.
“If statistics and numbers would indicate that there is a certain degree of leniency when people, civilians, citizens are involved, then we need to change the way that we select the citizens,” Wesson said last year.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board opposed the measure, writing last year that “there is precious little evidence that there is anything wrong with the current discipline process, other than that officers and their union don’t like it.”
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