Beck: LAPD to review 'number of issues' in ex-Mexican Mafia leader event

LAPD chief: Investigators will look at 'number of issues' involving event with ex-member of Mexican Mafia

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday that internal affairs investigators would look at a "number of issues" involving a meeting the LAPD arranged between business executives and a former shot-caller for the Mexican Mafia.

Beck initiated a personnel complaint investigation last week after the LAPD's independent watchdog released a report raising questions about the private Jan. 28 lecture featuring Rene "Boxer" Enriquez. The report found that the gathering was presented to Beck as a "law enforcement training event" but instead was attended by about 150 business executives and only 14 police officials.

Inspector General Alex Bustamante's report also questioned whether the LAPD had the proper court authority to remove Enriquez -- who is serving a life prison sentence for two murders -- from an unnamed detention center to take him to the downtown L.A. building where he addressed the group.

Beck declined to discuss many details of the personnel complaint investigation, citing state laws that keep police personnel matters confidential. The chief told reporters the inquiry would likely take "several months."

"I have said in the past, and I'll continue to say it: I have issue with the way the event was conducted," Beck said. "There are some issues about the degree of notification that I received, there are some issues about the propriety of the venue and there are some issues about the removal of the inmate. So we'll look at those things."

Bustamante's report and the subsequent LAPD investigation are the latest developments stemming from the controversial event, which had already been denounced by police commissioners and Mayor Eric Garcetti's office. 

At Tuesday's Police Commission meeting, President Steve Soboroff said the inspector general's report "speaks for itself." The next step, he said, is for the LAPD to "appropriately complete its own investigation."

A source familiar with the matter told The Times that a focus of the LAPD's inquiry would be Deputy Chief Michael Downing, a well-regarded, 32-year LAPD veteran who heads the counter-terrorism and special operations bureau.

Downing attended Tuesday's commission meeting with his attorney, who told commissioners he felt the report should be handled during a private session because it involved a confidential personnel investigation.

"Show reverence to the law," attorney Michael Stone said. "Follow the law."

Bustamante's report found that LAPD officials spent weeks -- and $22,000 -- planning the event at the request of the Young Presidents' Organization, an elite group of top business executives. It was a YPO event coordinator who suggested Enriquez as a speaker, the report found.

Enriquez has become a law enforcement darling since he left the notorious prison gang more than a decade ago. He has written books and helped teach (via video) a class at UC Irvine. His life is the subject of a bestselling biography. He has lectured at law enforcement conferences and training events.

As part of their preparation for the downtown L.A. event, LAPD officials facilitated three meetings between the YPO and Enriquez so the group could "meet and evaluate him as a potential speaker," according to the inspector general's report. YPO members were then invited to a "once in a lifetime event," with an invitation promising attendees would be "amazed, shocked, blown away and maybe even a little scared."

Meanwhile, an LAPD advance team planned multiple routes from the detention facility where Enriquez was being held to the downtown L.A. building where the event would take place, the report said. Safe houses along the routes were identified "in case the operation was compromised."

Beck said Tuesday there had been "some discussion" of the YPO reimbursing the LAPD for the costs to the department.

"We will look at that," Beck said.

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.

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