Handling of Complaints by Police Still Poor, Study Says : LAPD: The ACLU finds procedures little changed from those criticized by the Christopher Commission. Group calls for hiring an independent inspector general.


The Los Angeles Police Department's procedure for handling citizen complaints remains inadequate despite reforms called for after the police beating of Rodney G. King more than a year ago, the American Civil Liberties Union charged Monday.

The organization called for an overhaul of the way allegations of officer misconduct are reviewed, including hiring an independent inspector general to monitor the handling of citizen complaints.

"The LAPD's system of receiving and acting on citizen complaints is little changed today from what the Christopher Commission described last year as 'unfairly skewed against the complainant,' " the ACLU said in a study of the complaint process.

The report's call for an independent inspector general echoes a similar recommendation made by the Christopher Commission, which investigated the Police Department after the King beating. But the City Council has delayed a decision on the recommendation until after a June 2 vote on police reforms.

The ACLU report also focused on a citizen complaint hot line established by Police Chief Daryl F. Gates after King's brother attempted to file a complaint against police officers involved in the beating. The ACLU study asserted that the hot line is an "unlisted number--unknown within LAPD and largely inaccessible to the public."

Of 82 calls placed by ACLU staffers to police stations around the city, 87% of the LAPD personnel who responded said they did not know the number or that no such number existed, according to the civil rights group. Some LAPD personnel "simply left callers on hold indefinitely," the ACLU said.

Contacted by The Times, Lt. Gabe Ornelas, commanding officer of patrol officers at the department's Foothill Division, said: "I don't know of any hot line. . . . It's news to me."

The ACLU called on the city to widely publicize the hot line--(800) 339-6868--through radio and television ads and listings in telephone books.

ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston said the study--copies of which were sent to the City Council, Mayor Tom Bradley, the Police Commission and the police chief--"is another piece of evidence that Gates and the LAPD do not have a sincere interest in meaningful reform."

Bradley has asked Police Commission President Stanley K. Sheinbaum to respond to the report, an aide to the mayor said.

LAPD Cmdr. Robert Gil said: "The department will analyze the report in an effort to determine if there are existing deficiencies. If there are, we will work to correct those problems."

ACLU staffers also interviewed 33 people who contacted the private police group Police Watch, saying they had also filed complaints with the Police Department but never received word about the outcome of any investigation.

The group asked the department to routinely make public the outcomes of investigations into citizen complaints, including discipline taken against officers. Gil said that privacy laws restrict the department from disclosing disciplinary action against employees.

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