Despite opposition from the Los Angeles Police Department chief, the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to take one final step Tuesday toward placing a measure on the May election ballot that would create an all-civilian review board for police disciplinary hearings.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says he backs civilian involvement in disciplinary hearings, but rejects the idea of having only civilians — and no cops — making judgement decisions.
The deadline for the council to place any measure on the ballot is Wednesday.
The council has a choice between two options — one that would create the all-civilian panel option for all disciplinary matters, or a second one that would only create the option for officers facing suspension of 22 days or less.
The ballot measure would state officers could choose the civilian panel or one under the current system, which provides a panel of two command-level officers and one civilian to sit on the “board of rights” panels.
The council has continued to move forward with the measure even in the face of a staff report that found civilians serving on the board of rights panels have consistently voted for lighter penalties compared to officers on the panels.
City Council President Herb Wesson, who has led the council’s push for the measure, has continued to express faith in a civilian panel.
“I refuse to believe that civilians cannot participate and whenever there is civilian participation it is better,” Wesson said at a Jan. 11 council meeting.
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.
The council is also set to vote Tuesday to create ad hoc committee on the civilian panels, with one purpose being to review the criteria and selection process for civilian hearing examiners.
Many civilian examiners have a legal background, but Wesson has expressed a desire for the panels to be made up of regular citizens.
“I believe in the regular guy’s and gal’s ability to be fair,” Wesson said on Jan. 10.
The council will also vote on asking for a staff report with a plan to conduct community hearings on the proposed civilian panels, a review of all civilian examiners, and a comprehensive report of liability claims and payouts related to the LAPD.
—City News Service