Gates Orders Ban on Hazing Practices by LAPD Officers : Police: A spokesman denies that the Dec. 6 action was taken in anticipation of the City Council approving payment of $215,000 to an injured policeman.
As the city prepared to settle a lawsuit over a 1988 hazing incident that permanently injured a Los Angeles police officer, Chief Daryl F. Gates issued an order formally banning all such activities in his department, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The chief’s Dec. 6 order was essentially a clarification of the department’s previous statements which “completely and unequivocally labeled hazing as an unacceptable practice,” said Lt. Fred Nixon, a department spokesman.
Nixon said the order, deriding initiation rites as unprofessional and damaging to morale, was not prepared in anticipation of publicity over the City Council’s approval Tuesday of a $215,000 payment to an officer who was injured by fellow officers in a locker room hazing incident three years ago.
Police Department officials on Wednesday said hazing has not been a widespread practice. But that was disputed Wednesday by one of four officers disciplined in connection with the locker room initiation rite in the Southeast Division.
“It was very common,” said Officer Bobby Marshall, who said he received a five-day suspension for his involvement in the 1988 incident.
Marshall said he and others in a South Los Angeles gang detail were often surrounded and punched by other officers as part of initiation rites.
It also was typical, he said, for rookie officers to be prohibited from growing mustaches until they completed their one-year probation.
“The department has participated in hazing since the beginning of time,” said Marshall, who is suing the department for $20 million, alleging that he suffered harassment and retaliation for giving testimony to the Christopher Commission about brutality and racism in the Police department. Marshall said he is off duty because of stress.
Nixon and several ranking officers in the training field said they were unaware of hazing practices.
Former Deputy Chief Jesse Brewer, now a member of the Police Commission, oversaw the South Bureau for several years, ending in 1987. “I just don’t think we had that kind of problem. . . . I could be wrong,” he said.
The issue of hazing arose when Officer Michael J. Hansen received a $215,000 settlement from the city. Hansen alleged that he was beaten by several officers after he refused to join in an initiation rite at the Southeast station. He said he was hospitalized for four days after the incident and off work for four months, and now has permanent back injuries. He has returned to a light duty job with the Police Department.
The initiation involved a new officer in the South Bureau’s CRASH anti-gang detail, where Hansen had previously been assigned.
As described by Marshall, in an interview, and Hansen, in police investigative reports, the initiation was similar to the “jumping in” rite used by some gangs: Veterans form a circle around the newcomer and begin striking him.
Hansen was hit from behind during the incident, according to interviews and records, and fell to the floor. The CRASH officers allegedly went back to initiate the other officer, who was not injured.
“It’s something that had occurred in the CRASH unit at least a hundred times with no one getting hurt,” said Marshall, who agreed to be interviewed on the advice of his attorney, Stephen Yagman.
Marshall confirmed that Hansen was hit from behind and injured. But he said he personally never struck Hansen and denied that any officers piled on Hansen, as Hansen alleged.
Marshall said the practice of hazing newcomers in the anti-gang detail ended after Hansen’s injury.
But he said other more subtle initiation rites continue in the department. For example, rookies are told they should not try to purchase large boots favored by many officers until they have completed their training period.
Lt. Richard Gonzales, whose division counsels new recruits who are having trouble in the field, said he has never heard complaints about such practices or hazing. He said new officers sometimes are not allowed to drive in two-man patrol units and are held to particularly high standards of dress and personal grooming, but he said he did not consider that hazing.
Some racial overtones have been alleged in the hazing case, although the officers involved say the incident was not racially motivated.
Hansen’s attorney, Alan B. Snitzer, has suggested that the beating of his client was a sort of “reverse Rodney King,” because Hansen is white and his attackers are black.
On Wednesday, Snitzer, who represents hundreds of LAPD officers in injury cases, said he received numerous calls from white officers complaining that the alleged attackers received only light punishments of a few days suspension.
Marshall, who is vice president of a group called the African American Peace Officers Assn., said the department’s investigation of the incident and the punishments meted out to black officers were racially motivated.