Inquiry Clears Vernon of Religious Favoritism on Job

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police investigators turned up "no evidence of wrongdoing" in their review of allegations that Assistant Chief Robert Vernon improperly imposed his fundamentalist Christian beliefs on the day-to-day operations of the Los Angeles Police Department, Chief Daryl F. Gates said in a sworn statement made public Tuesday.

In a four-page affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, Gates said he has closed an internal police investigation into contentions that his top assistant promoted certain officers based on their religious leanings. Gates also said he has found no merit in assertions that Vernon himself was denied the right to pursue his own religious beliefs.

"There was no and there has been no violation of Chief Vernon's religious rights," Gates said.

"Furthermore," he added, "my investigation has not produced any . . . evidence of wrongdoing by Chief Vernon. . . . I will not institute any disciplinary charges against Chief Vernon."

Gates began his inquiry into the allegations earlier this year, when the Police Commission asked him to review whether Vernon, in his on-duty activities, provided special treatment to certain officers under his command.

Last month, Vernon filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking that the investigation into his conduct be immediately stopped because it violated his rights to religious freedom. Although Gates' affidavit now appears to give Vernon what he wanted, his attorney said they will continue to pursue the lawsuit until the Police Commission formally clears the assistant chief of any improprieties.

"It's a positive step in the right direction," said Vernon's attorney, David L. Casterline. "But the Police Commission hasn't said anything about it, and my client didn't know anything about this until today."

Casterline added that Vernon, who has declined to comment about the legal matter, "continues to be outraged that he has been kept in the dark about all this."

Stanley K. Sheinbaum, president of the Police Commission, could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

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