Dorner report finds concerns over bias within LAPD

Focus group sessions with department employees found many believed internal investigations were unfair

A Los Angeles Police Department review of its discipline system prompted by the Christopher Dorner rampage found widespread concerns among officers and civilians that the agency discriminates based on gender, ethnicity and rank, according to a report reviewed by The Times.

Focus group sessions with more than 500 department employees found that many of those interviewed believed internal investigations were unfair and punishments were subjective, the document said. Among the complaints were that the department overlooks misconduct by high-ranking officials, that discipline is influenced by public and media pressures and that nepotism infects the disciplinary process.

The report, however, also contained data that raised doubts about some of those perceptions of bias.

Statistics compiled by the LAPD show that the ethnic, gender and rank breakdown of officers sent to disciplinary panels for suspensions or termination roughly matches the demographics of the LAPD as a whole. White officers, for example, make up 36% of the department and 35% of officers sent to Board of Rights disciplinary hearings for lengthy suspensions or termination. Black officers account for 12% of officers and 14% of those sent to such hearings.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck ordered the report more than 20 months ago after Dorner, an ex-LAPD officer, went on a shooting spree across Southern California, killing police officers as well as the daughter of an LAPD captain and her boyfriend. In a rambling online document, Dorner said that he was seeking retribution after being unfairly fired and that he was the victim of racial discrimination within the department.

The civilian police commission is expected to review the report at a meeting next week. 

LAPD officials said in the report that they were planning to make a significant change: returning to using specific guidelines to determine what punishment an officer deserves. The move is intended to help ensure similar punishments are handed down for similar types of misconduct.

The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, declined to comment, saying he had not read the report.

Officers have continued to complain that discipline in the LAPD is uneven and unfair. In an attempt to quell the unrest, Beck said he would conduct a comprehensive review of how misconduct is investigated and how discipline is decided.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

jack.leonard@latimes.com

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