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

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing the police department’s rank and file, Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the city, its police department and police chief over what it calls the unconstitutional structure of the body that decides discipline issues involving officers.

According to the union, the Los Angeles-lodged suit aims to stop Chief Charlie Beck’s “corrupting influence” over the LAPD Board of Rights, a three- person panel charged with deciding discipline cases for officers facing long- term suspension or termination. The City Charter provides for the board to consist of two Los Angeles Police Department command staff members and one independent civilian member.

The Board of Rights is supposed to perform its duties in a fair and impartial manner, but, in fact, the two senior officers on the board “owe their livelihood” to Beck, according to the union.

The complaint seeks a judge’s order declaring that the City Charter provision regarding the involvement of two senior officers on the Board of Rights violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The post-Civil War amendment made it unconstitutional to deprive people of life, liberty or property without due process and guarantees people equal protection under the law.

“The lawsuit details Chief Beck’s command-staff exerting improper influence over police members of the BoR panel to uphold the chief’s recommended discipline decision,” according to the union.

It said four LAPD captains, who, by virtue of their rank, are not represented by the police union, recently filed suits against the LAPD “detailing the inappropriate influence from Chief Beck during the BoR process.”

Beck, in an interview with KNX Newsradio, denied he exerts undue influence on the Board of Rights, saying that more than half of BoR hearings have not gone the way he recommended.

“In 26 of those 184 cases, the board found the officers not guilty, and in 67 of them, they found them guilty but then applied a penalty that’s less than firing,” he told the station “So in over half of the cases, they find different than I originally recommended. So if it’s a system that I’m corrupting, then I’m not doing a very good job of it. And I have to say … I find this a little personal.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti, appearing on KNX’s “Ask the Mayor” program, conceded that the make-up of the board is “outdated” and he is open to a reconstituting it, but stressed that such a move would require a change to the City Charter and a public vote.

“The people of Los Angeles voted this system in so that there’s one civilian and two police officers is something in our charter that actually came from a vote of the people so we might have to go back to the voters to say could we change that …,” he said.

“I do think we need to update that system, and hopefully we can bring that together. Sorry it’s come to a lawsuit but that doesn’t mean we cant keep talking.”

—City News Service

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