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Complaints against LAPD increased in 2019, but few resulted in discipline

Complaints against LAPD officers were up in 2019.
Complaints against LAPD officers were up in 2019, but few resulted in discipline.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Complaints against Los Angeles police officers rose in 2019 compared with the prior two years, though most were determined to be unfounded and only a small percentage resulted in officers being disciplined, according to a new report.

The department continued a years-long streak of clearing every single officer accused of biased policing.

A total of 3,763 complaints were fielded in 2019, more than three-quarters of them from members of the public, according to the department’s annual report. That’s compared with 3,567 complaints in 2018 and 3,217 in 2017.

Only about 10% of complaints in 2019 were “sustained” — or determined valid — by internal affairs investigators and other supervisors overall, the report found. Less than 4% of complaints filed by members of the public were sustained, compared with 5% of such complaints in 2018.

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Of 734 complaints alleging biased policing in 2019, zero were sustained. That continues a pattern of the department finding no such complaints valid, after sustaining none of 494 such complaints in 2018 and none of 514 such complaints in 2017.

The report was attached to the agenda for the Police Commission’s meeting Tuesday, but was taken off the agenda at the start of the meeting.

Commission President Eileen Decker said the change was made at the request of the police department. Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said the report was taken off the agenda, to be reintroduced at a later date, because LAPD Chief Michel Moore had been on vacation and had not had an opportunity to review the report before Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Rubenstein said Moore was reviewing the report and would have “detailed comments” on it at the next commission meeting.

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The report shows officers were accused of a variety of offenses and policy violations last year, including drunken driving, neglect of duty, unbecoming conduct, sexual misconduct, drug offenses, financial dishonesty and making false statements. More than 50 were accused of being involved in a “domestic altercation.”

Of 524 officers who had charges sustained against them in investigations that were concluded last year, 208 were admonished or reprimanded as punishment, 138 were suspended and 16 were fired. Four officers were demoted. An additional 100 received no penalty.

Eighteen officers were fired in 2018, and 17 were fired in 2017.

The department determined that it was unable to impose punishment on 58 officers last year because the officer had already resigned, retired or otherwise left the department.

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The report shows that officers avoided punishment for a variety of offenses by retiring or resigning.

Moore has previously complained about his inability to fire some officers after disciplinary boards ruled they could stay on the force after holding hearings on their alleged misconduct.

Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the union that represents rank-and-file officers, said it was “unfair” to discuss the increased number of complaints without also noting that those deemed “demonstrably false” by investigators had also sharply risen, by hundreds of cases.

Sandoz said false claims should “cause concern for everyone” and that city prosecutors should hold people who file them accountable.

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Also Tuesday, the Police Commission changed the rules for public comment during its virtual meetings via Zoom — limiting it to 45 minutes at the start of the meeting. The change required callers to comment on agenda items before the commission and police officials discussed them.

The change was met with outrage by callers, who called it a disrespectful ploy to avoid public scrutiny of the LAPD and the commission itself.

Activists also protested the change outside Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home, and sent emails to Garcetti and other city officials with the subject, “Stop Silencing Our Voices!”

At the end of the commission meeting, Decker said the rules for meetings will continue to be evaluated.


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