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Fuhrman Faces Reprimand for Treatment of Female Officers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles Police Department investigators, concluding their probe of former Det. Mark Fuhrman, will recommend that he receive a reprimand for mistreating female colleagues but found that he exaggerated his claims of brutalizing suspects, sources close to the inquiry said Monday.

The LAPD investigation was launched after defense attorneys in the murder trial of O. J. Simpson uncovered tapes of the former detective boasting of beating suspects, duping Internal Affairs investigators and disparaging the abilities of female and minority police officers. State and federal officials are also investigating Fuhrman’s work history and testimony during the Simpson trial.

The results of the LAPD inquiry will be shared with the civilian Police Commission in a closed session after today’s meeting, sources said, and will recommend that Fuhrman receive a reprimand for his treatment of women colleagues.

“Fuhrman participated actively in creating a hostile work environment” during his time at the West Los Angeles police station, where he allegedly was a member of an informal group known as MAW, short for Men Against Women, a source familiar with the case said. “There are a litany of things about that time that have come to light.”

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Specifically, sources said investigators probed comments by the then-detective, who would allegedly deride the abilities of female colleagues and would suggest that they were unfit for police work. A previous investigation of the West L.A. station also confirmed the existence of Men Against Women.

Based on those allegations, LAPD investigators are prepared to recommend that Fuhrman, now retired and living in Idaho, receive a reprimand. If the chief and Police Commissioners agree, Fuhrman would be given a chance to respond. If his response is unconvincing or if he chooses not to fight the action, the blight on his record would be included in his personnel package.

Practically speaking, however, that would have little effect on Fuhrman. Disgraced in the midst of the Simpson case, Fuhrman retired before the trial was over. His pension cannot be altered by the commission or the Police Department.

But the LAPD’s internal probe is only one of several investigations of the former detective. State authorities are considering perjury charges against him, and federal officials could bring a civil rights case against him if evidence surfaced that he violated suspects’ rights in recent years.

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That, too, seems unlikely, however. Although federal officials are considering a civil rights case, many of the alleged abuses are so old that the federal government would be barred from bringing charges even if they were true. The U.S. Justice Department also could bring a broader case against the LAPD, but so far has not taken steps to initiate such a case.

Moreover, Police Department sources say that the evidence uncovered in the LAPD probe suggests that many, if not all, of Fuhrman’s comments about beating suspects were exaggerated.

In the tapes that exploded across the Simpson trial and lent credence to defense claims of a racially motivated police conspiracy, Fuhrman repeatedly used a racial slur that he had denied under oath using. He also boasted of beating and mistreating suspects, saying he and other officers had beaten four men’s faces until they were “just mush” and alleging that officers allowed another suspect to die after he shot a police officer.

In addition, Fuhrman’s detailed account of a 1978 incident in the department’s Hollenbeck Division included his claims that he and colleagues had lied to LAPD internal investigators.

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“They knew damn well I did it,” Furhman said in one of the taped conversations with an aspiring screenwriter. “But there was nothing they could do about it. Most of the guys worked 77th [Street Division] together. We were tight. I mean, we could have murdered people. We all knew what to say.”

Some details of Fuhrman’s account of the 1978 incident dovetailed with known facts about a controversial episode in LAPD history. A police shooting in a Boyle Heights housing project that year triggered a melee, and several people afterward complained of having been beaten.

In one of the taped conversations, Fuhrman said he was among the first officers at the scene and that he and other officers quickly rounded up gang members they believed to be responsible for the shooting.

“We basically tortured them,” Fuhrman told the screenwriter. “There was four policemen, four guys. We broke ‘em. Their faces were just mush. They had pictures of the walls with blood all the way to the ceiling and finger marks of trying to crawl out of the room.”

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From the start, however, other police officers who responded to the scene that night challenged aspects of Fuhrman’s account. Although records indicated that Fuhrman was at the scene, other officers said he did not have the opportunity to commit the acts he boasted of.

LAPD investigators agreed, sources said.

“He consistently exaggerated,” one source said of Fuhrman. “He was telling stories out of school to impress this screenwriter.”

Police Commissioner Raymond C. Fisher declined to comment in detail on the Fuhrman probe Monday. But he confirmed that commissioners are expecting a full briefing today on the long-running investigation.

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