Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson continued Wednesday to express faith in civilians having a greater role in disciplinary hearings for police officers, despite a recent report showing it could result in lighter penalties for officers accused of wrongdoing.
The council directed city attorneys to draft ballot language on a series of proposals for potentially changing the Los Angeles Police Department’s disciplinary system. The proposals include one that would give LAPD officers facing disciplinary action the choice of putting their fate in the hands of a panel of civilians, rather than the current system in which they face a panel of two command-level officers and one civilian.
Another option would create a review panel on which civilians have a majority vote.
A city staff report found that civilians serving on LAPD board of rights panels have consistently voted for lighter penalties compared to their LAPD counterparts — hinting that an all-civilian panel or majority-civilian panel would generally make more lenient decisions.
Wesson said he is confident a workable system can be developed.
“I hope when it comes time to ask this body (the City Council) to vote for something that I am able to work out some consensus,” Wesson said.
“I refuse to believe that civilians cannot participate and whenever there is civilian participation it is better,” Wesson said. “And so that’s one of the things that I want to try and get at. Now it’s been elusive. Give us more time to work on it.”
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has said he is opposed to an all-civilian board of rights panel, although he supports civilian involvement. A civilian panel has the support of the police union, which contends the chief has undue influence on sworn members of the board of rights panels.
Once the city attorney’s office prepares the official ballot-language options, the issue will return to Wesson’s Rules, Elections, Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhoods Committee for further discussion before going to the council for a final decision.
Wesson also said he was going to submit a letter to the council asking for the creation of an ad hoc committee to “review this entire process. And that will include community hearings and things of that nature.”
The ad hoc committee would include Wesson; Councilman Mitchell Englander, chair of the Public Safety Committee; and Councilman Paul Koretz, chair of the Personnel Committee.
–City News Service
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