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4 LAPD officers claim race-based discrimination

Times Staff Writer

Four Los Angeles police officers on Friday accused top department officials -- including the former head of the internal affairs bureau -- of discrimination for failing to include them in a new unit to investigate use-of-force incidents.

The investigators -- two African Americans and two Latinos -- held a news conference at the Woodland Hills offices of attorney Bradley Gage to announce a lawsuit against the department. They contend that the city failed to properly investigate their complaints that Deputy Chief Michael Berkow and other top LAPD officials had excluded them from the Force Investigation Division because they were minorities or had disabilities.

“My clients are just pure victims,” Gage said. “But for race, but for their disability, they would still be in those positions.”

Chief William J. Bratton immediately issued a statement in which he called the officers’ allegations “outrageous and without foundation.”

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“I have based my whole career on ensuring equal opportunity to all people,” Bratton said. “And I stand on my record at LAPD of appointing qualified minorities and women.” He pointed to his recent appointments to top department positions of two women, two African Americans and a Latino.

The accusing officers were assigned to the Critical Incident Management Division formed in 2001 when the LAPD, then led by Chief Bernard C. Parks, was placed under federal court supervision as fallout from the Rampart corruption scandal.

The unit came under the scrutiny of the federal monitor, who was repeatedly critical of the quality of the officer use-of-force investigations and outlined the need for structural changes in several quarterly reports. Bratton said that led to the “organizational and personnel changes,” which in turn led to the creation of the new division.

But Gage said the department failed to heed warnings from at least one of its own top commanders that the reorganization could open the department to charges of discrimination.

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In all, 13 people were denied transfers to the new unit. Gage is handling half a dozen of the suits. Lt. Otis Dobine, a 35-year LAPD veteran, said Friday that his supervisors never gave him a reason why he couldn’t continue investigating use-of-force cases in the new unit. Dobine, who is African American, said he believes that’s because the criteria was solely based on race.

“If you’re white, you’re right, if you’re black, step back,” Dobine said.

Gage also represents Ya May Christle, an LAPD detective who says she was demoted after she alleged that Berkow, her former boss at internal affairs, gave preferential treatment to several female officers under his supervision.

In a deposition as part of Christle’s lawsuit, Berkow admitted to having a sexual relationship with a female sergeant in his unit but denied she was given any special consideration.

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The suit by Christle also alleges that a computer hard drive containing discovery materials relating to the LAPD’s handling of the Notorious B.I.G. murder investigation was taken from her and that she was removed from the case.

andrew.blankstein @latimes.com


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