Three people have told police investigators they were molested by Deputy Police Chief David Kalish during the late 1970s, law enforcement sources said Wednesday, prompting the district attorney to consider filing criminal charges.
Kalish, who last year was a candidate for the job of police chief, was suspended with pay after a five-month police investigation that coincided with a civil claim filed against the city in October. A Santa Clarita man alleged that Kalish molested him while the man was a youth in the Explorer program.
The man said Kalish harassed, sexually molested and assaulted him during his time as an Explorer at the Devonshire station in the north San Fernando Valley, according to the claim. The Times is withholding the man's name because he is the alleged victim of a sex crime.
While investigating the allegations, Los Angeles police found a second person who also said he was molested by Kalish, law enforcement sources said. A third person contacted investigators, claiming that he too had been molested by Kalish, sources said.
Under California law, prosecution of very old claims of sexual abuse requires evidence of substantial sexual conduct and independent evidence that clearly and convincingly corroborates the allegations. The corroboration requirement is intended to eliminate the possibility that a case would rest on one person's memory of a long-ago event.
A decision on whether to file criminal charges against Kalish will be made in early April, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said. He would not release any details of the pending case.
Kalish, a 28-year LAPD veteran and former department spokesman, oversees the West Bureau. At 49, he is among the youngest commanders to hold the rank of deputy chief.
Before the selection of Chief William J. Bratton in October, Kalish was one of 13 candidates and was considered one of the leading internal contenders. Openly gay, Kalish rose in a department that was often accused of being anti-gay and anti-female.
Kalish's suspension was announced Tuesday to top Police Department commanders. Word spread quickly, and many in the department reacted with surprise and sadness, although they said the business of remaking the Police Department would continue unabated.
"The bottom line is, we have to do our job no matter what," said Police Cmdr. Paul Kim, who is second in command at West Bureau. "The work has got to go on, so that's my message to my people, to allow the system to take its place."
Officials with the department's Command Officers Union declined to comment.
Councilman and former Police Chief Bernard C. Parks expressed surprise at the allegations. He questioned why the allegation was made public before prosecutors had a chance to weigh any evidence against Kalish.
"It's unfortunate that it's in the newspaper before the D.A. has a chance to make a decision that could end up clearing him," Parks said. "The whole thing is very, very strange."
Former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates called the department's handling of the case highly inappropriate, saying Kalish should not have been suspended unless the district attorney charged him with a crime.
"Maybe he is guilty, maybe he isn't," Gates said. "There is not any point in sending him home until a case is filed."
Gates said: "You have a man with ... a remarkable, impeccable record and distinguished career; along comes a 20-year-old accusation. You could wait until the investigation is complete. If a decision is made and it's against him -- fine. But before a decision is made, it's highly inappropriate."
Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, a former police union official, questioned the timing of the complaint. Zine asked: "Why at this point in his career?"
Zine praised Kalish, and said he has always been courteous and professional.
Parks, who promoted Kalish from commander to deputy chief, said he tried unsuccessfully to reach Kalish after learning of the allegation.
"He is a guy that in his career has been as squeaky clean as you can be," Parks said.
Times staff writer Matea Gold contributed to this report.