Police Union Sues to Block Federal Consent Decree
The union representing the Los Angeles Police Department’s more than 8,000 officers filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block the implementation of a federal consent decree on reforming the LAPD.
The petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court seeks to prevent the City Council from approving the consent decree without including the Los Angeles Police Protective League in its discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The union also renewed its call for inclusion of a number of new provisions--ranging from flexible work schedules for officers to more civilian oversight of the department’s disciplinary procedures--in the legal blueprint aimed at overhauling the LAPD.
“Everyone recognizes that police reform is an urgent imperative” said Mitzi Grasso, director of the league. “Yet the two groups that it would affect most, namely the residents of Los Angeles and the ordinary police officers, have not been consulted at all on this matter. We just want a seat at the table.”
City officials, however, accused union officials of seeking to scuttle the consent decree at the 11th hour.
“I would hope that the union would be helpful in implementing the consent decree rather than attempting to delay or stop it,” said Police Commission President Gerald L. Chaleff. “There is nothing in the agreement that attempts to either circumvent their collective bargaining agreements or to violate any charter provisions.
“The fact that they want to get an injunction to prevent implementation raises questions of whether they really want reform to take place,” Chaleff said.
The Justice Department, which has made it clear that it will sue the city without such a consent decree, alleges that the LAPD for years has been engaging in a pattern of misconduct in dealing with suspects.
To stave off such a lawsuit, city leaders and federal officials have been meeting behind closed doors for five months to hammer out a settlement, which was approved in concept by the City Council three weeks ago. The deal is expected to be ratified by the city lawmakers and filed in federal court in the coming weeks.
The decree will include a lengthy list of reforms, ranging from bolstering the Police Commission to collecting data to determine the extent of racial profiling in the Police Department.
Officials in the city attorney’s office say the agreement also includes provisions ensuring that the city will confer with the union on issues that directly affect officers’ working environment.
“My sense is the labor union has an interest in protecting its rights,” said Chief Deputy City Atty. Tim McOsker. “The city has repeatedly told the union it will protect those interests to the full extent of the law.
“Clearly, the city has expressed an interest in moving forward with reforms with reasonable quickness,” McOsker added. “It doesn’t prevent us from addressing other issues. We would hope that management and the union would be able to work together toward appropriate reform.”
Grasso, however, said she believes the city is moving too hastily.
“Too many times, the city and the LAPD management have rushed into ill-considered and ineffectual decisions that serve nobody,” she said. “We fear that could happen here.”
Hank Hernandez, the union’s attorney, said he expects the court to set a hearing on the league’s complaint within 30 days.
“In one way or another, our intent is to make sure that the voices of the 8,000 police officers we represent are heard,” Hernandez said.
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