LAPD, Union Battle Over Husband of Union's Chief

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles police union Monday filed a claim against the LAPD, alleging it is unfairly investigating the husband of the union's president.

The Police Protective League contends that the motivation for the investigation is personal, between the union president and Chief Bernard C. Parks.

At issue is the further investigation into a disciplinary suspension given to Mike Grasso, the husband of league President Mitzi Grasso. Mike Grasso, a Medal of Valor winner and national award winner, was given a three-day suspension for using a firearm during a training exercise in March 2000. Grasso, who reported the incident to his supervisors, admits firing a blank shell and slightly injuring a recruit.

The case was investigated by the training division and Grasso, represented by his wife, was given a three-day suspension.

But when the case went through the department's internal affairs division, investigators there recommended to Parks that the case receive further examination. They suggested that it warranted a Board of Rights disciplinary hearing, and Parks agreed.

But Hank Hernandez, the general counsel to the police union, said the chief is taking Mitzi Grasso's criticisms of him too personally.

"The chief normally says he's being criticized for being a strict disciplinarian for getting rid of bad cops," Hernandez said. "Mike Grasso is not a bad cop. He doesn't deserve the rigors of a Board of Rights simply because his wife is the union president."

But LAPD spokesman Lt. Horace Frank said he finds the league's interpretation of the case "totally inaccurate and misleading." He said that Grasso's case was never closed and that the chief did not unilaterally make the decision to send it to the board, as the union implied.

Internal Affairs investigators concluded that "based on the seriousness of these allegations, the punishment didn't fit the charges," Frank said.

Union leaders, however, say the chief has bristled under the criticism by the league. The union has charged that Parks is an unfair disciplinarian and that his policies are overly strict. Mitzi Grasso was elected president of the league in January.

Mike Grasso won the department Medal of Valor award and was named a "Top Cop of the United States" in 1996 by then-president Bill Clinton for risking his life to save two people trapped in the Pacoima Wash flood control channel. He has been with the department for more than 20 years.

The league is asking the city Employee Relations Board to prevent a Board of Rights hearing. Typically, a board of rights reviews cases that would require 22 days of suspension to termination. The league is not asking for a change in the three-day suspension.

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