A Superior Court judge ruled Monday that Los Angeles police Chief Daryl F. Gates did not violate her temporary restraining order prohibiting him from forcing extra officers to work Halloween night--although Gates had threatened to disobey the order.
Judge Dzintra Janavs denied the Police Protective League’s request that the chief be held in contempt for the Oct. 19 videotaped comments, because “there is not sufficient evidence for me to show cause (for a contempt ruling).”
“There is no evidence that someone is being ordered to work against their wishes” on Halloween, Janavs said.
Representatives of the league, the police union, said they had hoped a contempt citation would force Gates to abandon his Halloween deployment plan.
“I may be held in contempt . . . ,” Gates said in the video address to LAPD officers, adding that he might defy the order.
“I find it ironic and deplorable that a law enforcement officer would say that--especially the chief of police,” Janavs said during a hearing on the motion. “There are always people who think they are above the law.”
Janavs granted the restraining order Oct. 17, after the union protested the chief’s plan to deploy extra officers in Hollywood to prevent a repeat of last year’s major disturbance there.
Last Halloween, some 100,000 people gathered on and near Hollywood Boulevard for a holiday celebration, but some began looting, breaking windows and robbing by-standers.
In his proposed “Desk officer deployment plan,” Gates sought to dispatch, twice monthly, extra foot and car patrols that would include many officers with desk jobs. Janavs’ restraining order forbids him to shuffle schedules, pending a hearing Nov. 6.
The judge said she rejected the contempt motion by league attorney Patrick Thistle because the current order does not bar Gates from making such comments.
“The current order does not enjoin speech,” the judge siad. “But the transcript (from Gates’ video) is clearly not in the spirit of the restraining order. It seems to me Gates statement was, ‘If we have to defy the court order, we will.”’
In a written statement issued Monday, Gates said the remarks were made “out of a sense of frustration for not being able to do what I think the people of this city pay me to do: . . . to protect them.”
Deputy City Atty. S. David Hotchkiss, who represented the Police Department, praised the judge’s decision to deny the motion.
“Chief Gates is a citizen of the United States and he has a right to freedom of speech,” Hotchkiss said.
To many officers, Thistle said, the video represented a clear attempt to intimidate officers who disapproved of the plan.
“Many officers feel their careers are jeopardized,” Thistle said. "(Gates’ videotaped statement) is an order and a directive. It’s a threat.”
Still, the union attorney said he would advise officers to obey any schedule changes.
Police officials denied charges that the department was trying to coerce officers into taking the Halloween patrol assignments.
“No one will be compelled to work hours that are different from their normal tours of duty,” department spokesman Lt. Fred Nixon said.