The commission that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department will look into whether Chief Charlie Beck played any role in softening disciplinary action against a male sergeant accused of having an improper relationship with the chief's daughter, who is an LAPD officer.
The case centers on Sgt. George Hoopes, whom the department accused of violating rules against romantic ties between supervisors and those they command. The department sought to have him demoted.
In an interview Saturday, Hoopes' attorney, Ira Salzman, said his client had an "entirely consensual" relationship with Beck's daughter, Brandi Pearson, when both were assigned to the Hollywood Division a few years ago. Pearson could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Hoopes denied wrongdoing in connection with his relationship with Pearson, arguing that he had no supervisory role over her, his lawyer said. Hoopes, however, admitted to making a mistake by entering into a personal relationship with a second female officer, Salzman said.
Hoopes appealed the demotion. He decided last year to take his case before an internal discipline board and made it known to department officials that he would invite the news media, waiving his right to a secret hearing, Salzman said. At the hearing, Hoopes' account of his relationship with Beck's daughter would have become public.
On the night before the hearing, Salzman said, the department relented on demoting Hoopes and offered him a lighter punishment. Salzman would not reveal what the punishment was but said it would allow his client to keep his rank as a sergeant. Hoopes accepted the deal, and the hearing was never held. Salzman said his client's decision to make his hearing public had "produced a correct, fair result." He declined to speculate about why the LAPD agreed to the lesser punishment.
An LAPD official who has been briefed on the Hoopes case said the department reduced the punishment because, shortly before the hearing date, witnesses either changed their testimony or said they would not testify at all. The source, who requested anonymity because police personnel matters are confidential, said concerns about what Hoopes might have said at the hearing played no role in the department's decision.
Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a spokesman for Beck, declined to comment on any aspect of Hoopes' case, citing state laws that prevent the release of any information about police personnel matters.
In general, Smith said, Beck has a policy of recusing himself from any matters involving his daughter or his son, who is also an LAPD officer.
The allegations come as the civilian Police Commission is evaluating Beck's performance as chief to decide whether he deserves a second five-year term.
Beck has received plaudits for driving down crime and improving community relations.
He has also been criticized by commissioners for some of his disciplinary decisions.
The Hoopes case received attention recently when LAPD Capt. Peter Whittingham wrote a letter to the Police Commission, which he sent to the news media last week, accusing Beck of "selective, situational and convenient enforcement of the rules."
Whittingham has filed a lawsuit alleging the department retaliated against him for refusing to follow the chief's instruction on discipline cases.
In his letter to the commission, he appeared to allude to the Hoopes case, without naming names, referring to a sergeant who faced discipline and threatened to notify the news media in connection with a female officer known to the chief.
"You must ask him to explain why he terminated a Board of Rights (that was in progress), and agreed to a settlement that overturned the downgrade of a Sergeant II who was charged with inappropriate sexual conduct," Whittingham said. "This was no ordinary case."
Jasmyne Cannick, a community blogger and activist, then reported on Whittingham's letter. Citing unnamed LAPD sources, she named Hoopes and Pearson.
Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD, said the panel's inspector general was aware of the allegations and was looking into them, as it does all allegations of misconduct involving the chief.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.