LAPD’s Kalish Relieved of Duty
Police Chief William J. Bratton has relieved Deputy Chief David Kalish of duty following a five-month criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct in the late 1970s, authorities said Tuesday.
LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell refused to detail the allegations, which are being reviewed by prosecutors. The criminal investigation coincided with the filing in October of a civil complaint accusing Kalish of molesting a youth in the Explorer program. Kalish held the rank of police officer in the late ‘70s.
In the civil claim filed Oct. 7, a Santa Clarita resident alleged that Kalish “harassed, sexually molested and assaulted” him. The man claimed $25,000 from the city of Los Angeles, and asserted that he had suffered damages of “severe and permanent emotional distress accompanied by physical manifestations.”
Kalish, 49, could not be reached for comment. Bratton relieved Kalish of his police powers and assigned him to his home on paid leave pending a decision by prosecutors on whether to file charges.
McDonnell said he could not speak about the case until that decision is made. “With the district attorney’s office reviewing the allegations, we cannot provide more information at this time,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said a decision on prosecution will be made in the next few weeks. “A final decision is expected to be made in early April after a complete examination of all available evidence,” he said.
Criminal charges based on conduct 20 years ago would normally be barred, but the Legislature during the mid-1990s extended the statute of limitations in cases in which there was serious sexual misconduct and corroborating evidence.
Kalish is a 28-year veteran of the department who oversees its West Bureau. He is among the youngest commanders to hold the rank of deputy chief, and is a familiar face from his years as a department spokesman. He was a candidate to head the department last year, and was one of only a few deputy chiefs to stay in his post after Bratton took over as chief last fall.
The investigation was conducted by the special operations section of the Internal Affairs bureau, and has involved prosecutors from the beginning, according to the LAPD statement.
The national law-enforcement Explorer’s Program has operated for 40 years in the Los Angeles Police Department. About 700 people ages 14 to 21 participate in activities aimed at providing alternatives for at-risk youths and at recruitment of officers. Some participants go on to attend the Police Academy.
LAPD Explorers wear uniforms and are assigned to one of the department’s 18 area stations, where they perform duties related to community relations such as handing out fliers and attending community meetings.
Those who go on to the Explorer Academy -- many from disadvantaged backgrounds or tough neighborhoods -- complete 96 hours of weekend training courses. Afterward, they return to work in the area stations under the supervision of youth services officers. They attend regular meetings and earn community-service hours, for which they are rewarded with educational trips.
Over the years, a few incidents involving officer misconduct related to the Explorer program have prompted lawsuits against the LAPD, said Capt. Sharyn Buck. The department banned overnight trips after claims of abuse in the Northeast Division in 1999, after which at least one officer left the department following allegations of sexual misconduct.
Nationally, the Explorers program is run by Learning for Life, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America. But for the last few years, it has operated almost independently of the Boy Scouts. When Kalish allegedly committed his misdeeds, the Explorer program was run entirely by the Boy Scouts.
“Learning for Life will not tolerate any form of child abuse,” said Greg Salce, director of the organization’s Los Angeles chapter. “Whenever any abuse is reported to us, we promptly remove the offender from all activities.” Such allegations are rare, he added.
Kalish entered the Police Academy in 1975 and quickly stood out: He was named top overall student by his instructors and made president of his recruit class by his peers.
Through the years, he has risen steadily through the ranks, holding a number of LAPD positions, including patrol, gang suppression, anti-terrorism, media relations and organized crime oversight. He also worked in juvenile operations.
He was promoted to command level in 1991, overseeing Hollywood patrol and the department’s communications and criminal intelligence group. For a time, he was the department’s official spokesman. Among the projects he has undertaken are polls of community attitudes toward the police and crime, and development of a law-enforcement Web site.
More recently, he has served as assistant chief over the LAPD’s West Los Angeles operations bureau, which covers about 124 square miles and has a population of more than 1 million people. It is one of the four geographical areas overseen by LAPD deputy chiefs.
Kalish supervises about 2,000 sworn and civilian police employees, and oversees the Hollywood, West L.A., Wilshire, and Pacific area stations.
Kalish frequently touts his Los Angeles roots and commitment to the city. He was born in San Pedro and earned a degree in political science from Cal State Northridge, then a master’s degree in public administration from USC. He lives with his partner and has a 4-year-old son.
Prior to the selection of Bratton as LAPD chief last year, Kalish was considered by many to be one of the leading internal candidates for the job
Although he has said he never set out to break barriers, as an openly gay man, Kalish’s rise in a department that historically was often accused of being anti-gay and anti-female has attracted widespread attention.
Over the years, Kalish has been praised by politicians and police brass as a coalition builder who was able to foster rapport with a wide variety of people who make up the LAPD’s many interest groups and constituents.
“This is very distressing news,” City Councilman Jack Weiss said. “In the year and a half that I’ve been on the council, I’ve come to know Chief Kalish as a man of the highest integrity. These charges must be pursued aggressively through the justice system, but regardless of the ultimate outcome, it is a very sad day for the city.”
Police Commission President Rick Caruso declined to comment other than to say that Kalish is “well respected” and that the case “is being handled no differently than any other sworn officer at LAPD.”
Times staff writers Jill Leovy, Hector Becerra, Monte Morin and Caitlin Liu contributed to this report.