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Paying suspended officers works

I'd like to respond to The Times' editorial, "Paying a punished LAPD officer."

Since April 2006, I have proudly served as general counsel for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Professional Assn., a police union founded in 1999 and made up of over 1,000 members, more than 800 of whom are full-time Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs. Every member enjoys the same benefit as Los Angeles city police officers regarding payroll reimbursement for suspensions without pay. In fact, LASPA's reimbursement policy has been in effect two years longer than the Police Protective League's policy and is fully included in our members' dues.

LASPA takes issue with the editorial and Police Commission member Anthony Pacheco's views regarding this issue on several fronts. First, the editorial's analogy to a "City Council member or other elected official" being fined for misconduct and then collecting more donor funds to pay the fine is defective. Our members are reimbursed from union dues, not donor funds that ultimately come from citizens, many of whom may not be aware how their donations are being spent.

And although the elected official and the officer both avoid financial hardship, only one still truly suffers from the misconduct. The elected official simply works a bit harder to get more money, pays his or her fine and carries on. The Times and Pacheco fail to realize that an officer suffers greatly when disciplined, even with payroll reimbursement. For instance, the discipline remains on the officer's record for many years (usually five) and is used adversely in the officer's subsequent annual evaluations. Also, suspensions are negatively taken into consideration for transfer and promotion requests, and are utilized for progressive discipline.

Obviously, payroll reimbursement does not equal a paid vacation. The discipline remains just that, discipline. But our policy fosters harmony within the department. Our members are far less bitter toward their superiors because they are not financially burdened. A proper balance is thus struck with our policy: meting out appropriate discipline and maintaining an officer's morale. Even the most cursory examination into police misconduct shows that most if not all egregious police misconduct has finances and antipathy as the root cause. Our policy protects officers and, more important, the public.

Finally, given the above, the Police Protective League's argument cited in the editorial -- that the policy "ensure[s] that an officer's family doesn't suffer when the breadwinner is punished for misconduct" -- is too simplistic. Although we certainly wish to protect our officers, we have also carefully ensured that our policy is consistent with public policy concerns. This is why we do not reimburse our members for any suspensions arising from off-duty conduct or conduct on duty that falls beyond the scope of an officer's duties. We firmly believe that officers should not be insured against unlawful or immoral acts. Officers do have the right, however, to insurance for job-related, non-malicious conduct. That is what LASPA has done for its members for close to a decade: protect them and, in turn, the public.

Adam L. Marangell is a trial attorney in Orange and Los Angeles Counties and general counsel to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Professional Assn.

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