Attorney accuses LAPD internal affairs unit of revealing alleged sex-hazing victims’ names

Exterior view of Los Angeles police headquarters
A group of Los Angeles police officers say they were subjected to sexual hazing while participating on the department’s amateur football team, the Centurions.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A group of Los Angeles police officers who are suing the city over allegations they endured sexual hazing on the LAPD’s amateur football team now risk facing retaliation, their attorney says, because the department revealed their identities during an internal investigation.

The attorney, Michael Morrison, said he was concerned that the internal affairs unit had disclosed the names to other officers during questioning about misconduct related to the Centurions, an all-LAPD squad with around 50 players that competes against other police agencies. His comments came as Los Angeles Police Department officials announced they lacked evidence to present a criminal case against any officers “right now.”

Morrison said officials should have known about the potential for backlash if his clients’ names — which had been kept secret during the litigation — became known within the department. Like other police departments, Morrison said, the LAPD has an insular culture that punishes those who break ranks, even to call out possible wrongdoing.


“I can’t see any other purpose for it, because you can ask all the questions that you want without disclosing their names,” Morrison said.

An LAPD spokesman said Thursday that the department does not comment on pending litigation, and a call to the internal affairs unit was not immediately returned.

The allegations echo claims made last month by a veteran LAPD detective who said he was sexually assaulted amid a group of 30 to 40 police officers during a locker room hazing ritual for rookies on the department’s amateur football team.

Nov. 21, 2023

Morrison said one of the officers who came forward with hazing allegations was confronted last week at a Dodgers game by an LAPD colleague and former Centurion teammate, who demanded to know why the officer had “ratted us out.”

The encounter left the officer shaken and worried about his future with the department, his attorney said.

Morrison said he called the internal affairs unit this week and spoke to a supervisor about his concerns. The supervisor became defensive and asked him whether he knew how to conduct an investigation better than detectives, Morrison said.

A separate criminal investigation into the sexual assault allegations was carried out by the department’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division, according to Capt. Scott Williams. “We received no cooperation from the [victims], so we don’t have enough evidence to present a criminal case right now,” he said.


Morrison said he wasn’t surprised by the decision, saying, “that’s what happens when the department investigates itself.”

“Our victims didn’t talk to them but our victims provided them with the tort claims,” which laid out all the allegations in the case, Morrison said. “We also told them to hold off, that these people would be deposed as part of our civil case and that we would share the depositions with them.”

The case centers on allegations — first reported by The Times last fall — by four officers who said in legal claims filed against the city that fellow Centurions players had sexually assaulted them as part of a hazing culture that department brass has long known about and failed to act on.

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The officers are listed as John Does in court filings, and The Times is not identifying them in keeping with its policy on reporting about alleged victims of sexual assault. The city — which is named as a co-defendant along with the Centurion Corp., a nonprofit associated with the team — has denied the claims in the officers’ lawsuit.

In March, the city argued in a court filing that it shouldn’t be liable for any potential damages since the hazing alleged by the officers didn’t occur “within the course and scope of their duties as employees of the city of Los Angeles, were not known to the city of Los Angeles and were not ratified by the city of Los Angeles.”

An LAPD detective was the first to speak out, claiming he was sexually assaulted in early 2009 in front of 30 to 40 LAPD officers during a hazing ritual for Centurions rookies. Several of those present, he said, are now supervisors with the department.


In the months that followed his decision to blow the whistle last year, the detective’s name circulated around the department, even reaching former officers who had long since retired.

The LAPD launched its own internal investigation last year to investigate the Centurions allegations, standard practice any time a claim or lawsuit is filed against the department.

Such internal probes are typically carried out in secret, with the names of those involved and details about what was said in interviews kept under wraps outside of special hearings.

Morrison said he worried about the potential chilling effect of his clients’ names being disclosed. The case is still under investigation, he said, and the internal affairs unit had sent out 150 or so letters to former Centurions players.

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Mario Munoz, a former LAPD internal affairs lieutenant, said that in most cases investigators must disclose a complainant’s identity to the accused officer, as required by the so-called Peace Officers Bill of Rights, a series of California laws that give law enforcement officers unique legal protections. This, he said, also applies to officers who may not have engaged in the alleged assaults, but who could still face discipline for failing to report the misconduct.

At the same time, the department has been the subject of numerous lawsuits in recent years alleging that the internal affairs process has been “weaponized” to silence whistleblowers who come forward with potentially embarrassing information, especially involving command staff, he said.


“Internal affairs has a lot of systems in place to make sure [retaliation] doesn’t happen, but the problem is that when you control the process, you control the investigation,” said Munoz, who retired in 2014.

The detective who made the allegations in the Centurions case previously told The Times he kept the assault secret for a long time because of the potential blowback. He initially told only a few family members and friends, until a chance run-in years later with one of the officers who was present during the hazing.

He reported the alleged assault to the L.A. Police Commission’s inspector general’s office in March 2023. When he didn’t get a response to his initial complaint, he sent the office a follow-up email a month later that also went ignored, his claim said.

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Two other officers who joined the detective’s claim said they were sexually hazed in 2006 and 2009. Altogether, the four accusers contend that the abuse was an open secret among the department’s leadership that was allowed to continue for “many years.”

Morrison previously called out what he saw as a campaign by the department to “discredit” the detective and others associated with the case. Within days of the first claim’s filing, several of the detective’s relatives received letters “in a harassing fashion” from the department referencing an investigation into unspecified allegations, Morrison said.

The statute of limitations for criminal charges has expired, but officers remain able to pursue civil claims.