Lid Put on Police Chief Suspension : Protecting Officer's Rights, Hermosa City Manager Says

Times Staff Writer

City Manager Gregory T. Meyer has clamped a lid of silence over the suspension of Police Chief Frank Beeson by instructing City Council members not to discuss allegations that the chief was intoxicated while on duty at the station.

Based on advice from Meyer, the council members have refused to talk publicly about the circumstances leading up to Beeson's indefinite suspension last Thursday.

Meyer said that he has advised council members not to talk about allegations surrounding the suspension because it would violate Beeson's right to have his personnel files kept confidential.

"I am not trying to hide the incident," Meyer said. "We're trying to keep (the public aware), yet not have anybody's rights violated."

Second Suspension

This is the second time that Beeson, 54, has been suspended. The first time was four years ago, about two weeks after he was appointed chief, when he appeared at a City Council meeting intoxicated, according to city officials who asked not to be named.

Council members privately said the chief's suspension was discussed in closed session before Tuesday night's regularly scheduled meeting. However, council members did not mention the chief's suspension during the public part of the meeting.

Meyer himself would say only that he decided to suspend Beeson after he received several oral complaints from officers and a written complaint from a police officer's wife. The written complaint alleges that Beeson phoned the officer's home and, while talking to his wife, became abusive and threatened to fire her husband, Meyer said.

While Meyer refused to supply details of the alleged phone conversation, several council members whom Meyer had briefed, speaking on the condition that their names not be used, said Beeson returned to the station after he had apparently been drinking and decided to hold a meeting with his upper-level staff members. Apparently upset that one off-duty officer was late arriving for the meeting, he phoned the officer's home, reaching the officer's wife, according to council members.

Pay to Continue

Meyer said that Beeson has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation into the alleged incident. The investigation is expected to take about three weeks, he said.

According to one councilman, Beeson reportedly has admitted himself to a local hospital for treatment of alcohol abuse.

However, Beeson could not be reached for comment, and hospital officials would not comment on whether Beeson is a patient.

Despite comments to a reporter by Councilman Jack Wood that he would have preferred that another agency, such as the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, conduct the investigation, Meyer said he believed the city's own Police Department should handle it.

"I gave the matter a lot of consideration," Meyer explained. "I based my decision on the fact that this is a civil matter rather than a criminal matter. The focus of the investigation is to document what happened."

Acting Chief Named

Meyer said that Capt. John Mebius has been appointed acting chief in Beeson's absence.

Beeson served on the Los Angeles Police Department for 26 years, including a stint in community relations in South-Central Los Angeles after the Watts riots. He became a commander in 1972 and served as second in command of all police operations in Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Venice, the Wilshire District and Los Angeles International Airport.

Beeson left the Los Angeles department in 1981 shortly before he was chosen chief in Hermosa Beach.

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