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‘Oldest Rookie’ May Sue for Reinstatement : Police: Attorney says Edward Olivares is considering ‘all options’ now that the LAPD has rejected his bid to rejoin the force.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Police Department on Wednesday rejected a request by Edward Olivares to rejoin the force, closing the door on the 59-year-old former officer who was the department’s oldest rookie until he unexpectedly quit last week.

In response, an attorney for Olivares hinted he may sue.

Olivares resigned effective March 4 after his commander, Capt. George Aliano, advised him that if he did not turn in his badge he would be fired because he was not meeting LAPD standards, Aliano said in an interview Wednesday.

Olivares’ attorney, David Brian Lippe, said his client is considering “all options . . . so that his best interests can be served.” He acknowledged that those options range from an internal union grievance to a lawsuit.

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Lippe said Olivares felt he was treated unfairly during his four months at the Foothill station, due to “skepticism” that a man of his age could do police work on the streets, and Olivares wanted to rejoin the force to prove himself.

Lippe said Police Chief Willie L. Williams’ rejection of Olivares’ request for reinstatement “is not unexpected.”

Olivares was able to join the LAPD as a result of a 1992 Police Commission ruling that eliminated age limits for LAPD recruits.

After he was laid off from his aerospace job in December, 1990, Olivares, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, began working out. Daily, he ran five miles, swam 20 laps in his condominium’s 20-foot pool and lifted weights for 90 minutes, and then successfully filed for admission to the Police Academy.

After graduating in November, Olivares became a probationary patrol officer at the Foothill station in the northeast San Fernando Valley. All Academy graduates are probationary officers for one year, during which they are coached and evaluated by a veteran officer known as a training officer.

Until the probationary year is up, officers can easily be dismissed. At the end, they face a formal decision on whether they will be retained.

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Aliano said Olivares had “several” training officers, and was sent back to the Academy for additional training. Olivares was receiving negative grades in several areas, including officer safety skills, a category that includes how officers deal with suspects and how they use their guns, Aliano said.

Aliano said Olivares was shown his low ratings and he asked for one more chance, so a supervisor was assigned to ride with him. The supervisor found that Olivares was not “safe for people out in the streets,” Aliano said.

Lippe, however, said Olivares was in “a Catch-22” situation because the only people he could complain to about what he saw as unfair evaluations were the same superiors who evaluated him.

Lippe also said some of Olivares’ supervisors may have been jealous of the media attention focused on the rookie when he began working at the Foothill station in November. “They were more interested in promoting his failure than his success,” Lippe said.

“This is a man that feels that he has the ability, the desire and the commitment, and is very willing to prove it, and for whatever reasons might not have had the opportunity to prove it,” Lippe said.

“I’m sure that age was one of the key considerations,” Lippe said. “He’s very aware of, and acknowledges, the skepticism, but I think he feels prejudged.”

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But Aliano said age was not an issue. “The kind of things you’re talking about have nothing to do with age,” he said. “They don’t have to do with whether you can climb a fence. They have to do with, can you follow certain procedures.”

Lippe said he has conferred with a director of the Police Protective League, the LAPD’s union. The union’s attorney, Hank Hernandez, said Oliveras could submit a grievance to the League, which would be reviewed by a union committee.

Lippe said Olivares has not received official acknowledgment of his resignation, but Aliano said that is in the mail.

“It’s not personal,” Aliano said. “He’s a nice man. There’s no dislike of him.”

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