LAPD purchase of horse owned by chief’s daughter is probed
The Los Angeles Police Department’s civilian watchdog is investigating the circumstances surrounding the agency’s acquisition of a horse owned by Chief Charlie Beck’s daughter, who is an officer assigned to the department’s equestrian unit.
This year, the Los Angeles Police Foundation, which raises money the LAPD uses to buy equipment and resources, paid Beck’s daughter, Brandi Pearson, $6,000 in exchange for George, a 10-year-old quarter horse, said Cecilia Aguilera Glassman, the foundation’s executive director.
As with all donations to the LAPD, department officials brought the deal to members of the Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD, for their formal approval last month. Commissioners were not informed the seller was an active LAPD officer or a relative of the chief, records show.
Had he known, Commission President Steve Soboroff said, he would have wanted to hear assurances from department officials that the animal was tested to make sure it is suited to work as a police horse, and that the sale price was fair.
These questions, and others surrounding the sale, are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the commission’s inspector general, Soboroff said.
Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a spokesman for Beck, said he didn’t know who first suggested the idea of buying Pearson’s horse, but said it was common for members of the LAPD’s mounted unit to suggest horses that might be suited for the job.
The horse, which is one of several owned by Pearson and other members of Beck’s family, was subjected to the same monthlong testing period all prospective horses are put through, and passed “with flying colors,” Smith said. The deal, he added, was negotiated by an officer who for years has served as the unit’s informal scout and buyer. And the sale price was thought to be less than what the horse could have sold for on the open market, Smith said.
The horse, one of 27 in the unit, is assigned to regular field duties and is ridden by several officers. Pearson, who is currently training other horses, is not one of them, Smith said.
Beck was aware the horse was being considered by the unit but deliberately stayed out of the decision of whether it should be bought, Smith said.
Word of the sale, which was first reported by political consultant Jasmyne Cannick on her personal website, comes as the inspector general also looks into whether Beck played any role in softening disciplinary action against a sergeant department officials accused of having improper relationships with Pearson and another female officer.
In response to questions about that case, Smith said the chief recuses himself from matters relating to his daughter or son, who is also a LAPD officer. In a follow-up statement released Monday, the department said it “takes all allegations of misconduct seriously.... This includes ensuring that any actual conflicts of interest or any appearances of a conflict of interest are avoided.”
Asked why the department did not alert the commission about Beck’s family tie to the horse, Smith said it was not the department’s “standard procedure” to identify a horse’s owner to the board.
The two cases have surfaced as Beck seeks a second five-year term as chief. The commission is scheduled to vote next week on whether to reappoint him.
The horse’s sale was set in motion late last year when Soboroff said he asked Richard Shapiro, a Malibu real estate developer and former chairman of the state’s horse racing board, to meet with members of the LAPD’s mounted unit and tour its facilities, in hopes Shapiro would donate some money.
After the tour, Shapiro donated $6,000 to the foundation and earmarked it to buy a horse for the unit, Glassman said.
Shapiro did not specify a particular horse to be bought, but a few months later the foundation received a request from the mounted unit for the same amount of money in order to buy a horse, Glassman said.
In their request, commanders from the mounted unit did not identify the owner of the horse and told the foundation the price was a bargain, saying a horse like the one they sought would likely sell for $8,500, according to Glassman. In the application, commanders said the horse would be used for crowd control during protests, demonstrations and other typical assignments alongside the unit’s other horses.
The foundation reviewed and approved the request for the funds in late March, Glassman said. She added that when it came time to write a check, the mounted unit provided the foundation with a bill of sale that named Pearson as the seller.
The department has a contract with a private farrier to care for the horses. Feeding and caring for each of the mounted unit’s horses costs several hundred dollars a month, said a source familiar with the unit, who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
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