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Bratton Defends Handling of Kalish

Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said Thursday that a department investigation found there is “substance” to allegations of sexual misconduct against Deputy Chief David Kalish.

That investigation focused on allegations by three people that they were molested by Kalish during the late 1970s, according to law enforcement sources.

“The fact that we conducted a five-month investigation leading to our request -- a department request -- of the D.A. for filing clearly indicates that the department believes there is substance to those charges,” Bratton said.

“Now, as to whether the district attorney makes a determination as to [whether] there’s enough substance to result in filing, that’s the process he’s engaged in.”

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Kalish, a 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and a candidate for police chief last year, did not return telephone calls Thursday. His attorney could not be reached. Kalish was suspended by Bratton this week after the completion of the department’s probe.

A Santa Clarita man filed a civil claim against the city in October alleging that he was harassed, sexually molested and assaulted when he was a youth in the Explorer program at the LAPD’s Devonshire Division station in the San Fernando Valley.

He named Kalish as his assailant. The Times is withholding the man’s because he is the alleged victim of a sex crime.

Bratton, who fielded several questions about Kalish Thursday during his regularly scheduled monthly media availability, brushed aside criticism by two former LAPD chiefs, who questioned his department’s performance in investigating one of its highest-ranking officers. He refused to give specific details of the case.

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Bratton also defended his decision to go public with his decision to remove Kalish, the commanding officer of the LAPD’s West Bureau, before criminal charges were filed.

“Would you rather that I had not done anything?” Bratton said. “The idea of the press release was the fact that the chief had been placed on home assignment, and that was going to be public knowledge. I felt obliged to explain why that had taken place. And within the limits of the information I could give out, we gave it out.

“Should I have left Chief Kalish in his position, in a very sensitive position, with all this going on? Would he have been effective in that position? Would the men and women under his command have been effective? No, I took an action I’m very comfortable with.”

Two former L.A. police chiefs, Daryl F. Gates and Councilman Bernard C. Parks, on Wednesday questioned the handling of the Kalish investigation.

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Gates said Kalish should not have been relieved before the filing of criminal charges. Parks challenged the timing of the allegations against Kalish, and suggested that the allegations should not have been made public before prosecutors had the chance to weigh the case. They “are entitled to their opinions,” Bratton responded Thursday.

Kalish was one of 13 candidates for the chief’s job last year. Openly gay, Kalish rose in a department that was often accused of being anti-gay and anti-female.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley has said his office will make a decision by early April on whether Kalish will be charged.

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.

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