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Board Votes to Fire School Police Officers

Times Staff Writer

The Inglewood school board voted late Wednesday to fire seven school reserve officers, including at least three who were guarding rapper Snoop Dogg in April when gunmen fired on his motorcade.

Another reserve officer, who was present during the April 10 incident and was part of the rapper’s entourage in June when police confiscated a cache of weapons from its vehicles, was fired last week.

The reserve officers technically were fired because they had not undergone adequate background checks as required by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, according to interim school Police Chief Wesley Mitchell.

But the officers say they passed mental, physical, criminal and financial background checks when they were hired. Some have worked for the district for a decade, and say the Inglewood Unified School District Police Department is responsible for losing their files. Some refused to undergo another background investigation.

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The dismissals are part of an effort by Mitchell to clean up his department, which has been embarrassed by the association of officers with the rapper, a convicted felon, but which did not have rules prohibiting such moonlighting. Mitchell is drafting a policy to limit off-duty work by school police officers.

Reserve officer Leslie Gaulden, one of those dismissed Wednesday, called the board’s actions part of a conspiracy against the officers. “After almost a decade of service, we are now considered a liability,” he told the board Wednesday night. He believes the officers are the victims of racial discrimination and were targeted for holding off-duty security jobs.

Joe Picou, president of the Inglewood School Police Officers Assn., a union, told the school board that the officers were wrongfully fired. “I hired most of these guys,” he said, referring to his previous role as a supervisor in the department. “I conducted the background checks on most of them; they are qualified.”

The California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training notified the school district Police Department in June that at least 17 officers did not meet its standards. Inglewood schools employ about 20 reserve and 12 full-time school police officers. The reserve officers are part-time employees who are issued badges and identification cards and earn about $13.50 an hour.

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About 10 full-time and reserve school police officers have guarded Snoop Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus. The interim chief has requested background checks on at least five of the full-time officers as well.

Inglewood school police Lt. Herman Jones praised Mitchell’s actions late Wednesday, saying they were long overdue. “I applaud what he’s been able to do in such a short time,” he said. “Let’s just be honest: It was a mess. Mitchell came in here and started cleaning it up.”

Board members Willie Crittendon, Eveline Ross, Johnny Young and Alice Grigsby voted to fire the reserve officers. Board member Cresia Green-Davis cast the only dissenting vote. The decision came after a more than four-hour closed session, after which most spectators had left the meeting and board members declined to explain their votes.

Reserve officers Leslie Gaulden, Randy Robinson and Kenny Archer, who were guarding Snoop Dogg during the April incident, were among those fired Wednesday. Marcus Thompson was fired last week.

An attorney representing six Inglewood school police officers, including five who were present during the April or June incidents, filed a civil lawsuit this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the district claiming discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

The suit alleges that the school Police Department’s former chief, Albert Vasquez, harassed and suspended these officers because they are black and then threatened to fire them because they complained.

“They’ve been trying to get rid of my officers long before the Snoop Dogg incidents,” said attorney Craig Byrnes, who filed the lawsuit. “I’m claiming retaliation.”

But Jones, who served a brief term as interim chief, denied that there has been discrimination or retaliation within the department. He said school police officials were trying to bring the officers into compliance with state rules.

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