Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday he will conduct a “thorough review” of the department’s involvement in a Jan. 28 speaking engagement featuring a convicted former member of the Mexican Mafia.
Beck said he was concerned about “the degree of notification I received, about the propriety of the venue — and there’s some issues about the removal” of Rene “Boxer” Enriquez from prison to attend the downtown event for the Young Presidents’ Organization, a group for business executives.
“We’ll look at those things,” Beck said. “I’m not prejudging it. I’m not saying any of those things occurred and there was misconduct. But I’m going to do a thorough review.”
He did not say which or how many members of the police department were being investigated, but said any final decisions made on a personnel complaint will be published in a quarterly report.
LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante concluded in a report released last week that police improperly removed Enriquez from prison so he could speak to the organization, with the police department spending $22,000 to do it.
Bustamante also wrote that members of the police department who worked with the business group misled Beck about the nature of the event, then used an expired court order as authorization to remove Enriquez from prison.
But Beck said today the court order is still valid.
Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a spokesman for the department, said no officers have been removed from duty in connection with the investigation.
The Police Commission received a letter from attorney for Deputy Chief Michael Downing on Monday telling them they should not talk about a personnel investigation in public. The attorney, Michael P. Stone, asked the commission today to “put this item completely out of the public agenda,” now that it is a “confidential personnel investigation.”
Downing also attended the meeting.
Commission President Steven Soboroff refrained from discussing the details of the report and the panel did not receive a presentation on it before approving the findings.
“At this point, I believe the inspector general’s report speaks for itself,” and now it is up to the department to further investigate, Soboroff said.
The Jan. 28 speaking event caused a stir in downtown Los Angeles, with an intense security presence provided for Enriquez, who has cooperated with law enforcement in criminal cases.
According to Bustamante’s report, the YPO originally approached the LAPD in November about gaining access to Enriquez so he could speak at the group’s event. Subsequently, LAPD and YPO officials met three times with Enriquez in prison prior to the Jan. 28 speaking engagement.
In December, an LAPD “command officer” asked Beck to approve the event, but described it as “a law enforcement training event designed predominantly for members of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association with YPO attending as secondary participants,” according to the report.
Beck agreed to the event. But while about 150 YPO members had agreed to attend the event by mid-January, “it does not appear that any invitation was sent to the Major Cities Chiefs Association.” Ultimately, only “14 high- ranking law enforcement executives attended the event, which included four LAPD staff officers,” according to the report.
When police removed Enriquez from prison, they cited a writ issued in April 2012 that allowed access to him “for the limited purpose of assisting law enforcement in the prosecution of a murder case,” the report found.
Bustamante said the writ expired in November 2012.
“The (inspector general) also confirmed that Enriquez was not removed for the purpose of being a witness as stipulated in the order,” according to the report.
Bustamante’s report found that about $22,000 was spent in LAPD personnel costs, including efforts of 38 LAPD employees and 320 labor hours, an LAPD helicopter circling the event for one hour, along with planning and preparation costs.
In response to the report, LAPD officials said Beck initiated a “complaint investigation” into the matter, and a probe will be conducted by the Professional Standards Bureau.
“A complaint investigation is a form of transparency to determine why the department did something,” said LAPD Officer Jack Richter, a department spokesman. “If it is found that there was a breach in policy or procedure, then there would be a personnel complaint initiated.”
Rene Enriquez spent nearly two decades with the Mexican Mafia, a powerful and deadly gang born in the California prison system. In 1993, Enriquez pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder and has been serving a life term. According to the Los Angeles Times, Enriquez left the gang in the early 2000s and began working with law enforcement.
Enriquez wrote the book “The Black Hand: The Bloody Rise and Redemption of ‘Boxer’ Enriquez, a Mexican Mob Killer,” copies of which he signed during the YPO event.
— City News Service