Barely a year after promising to reform its chronically troubled police force, the city of Maywood announced Wednesday that it would disband the 60-member department effective June 30.
City officials said the closure was caused by the city's loss of insurance. Earlier this month, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority notified Maywood that it was terminating general liability and workers' compensation coverage because the city posed too high a risk. An excessive number of claims filed against the Police Department, and the city's failure to hire a permanent city manager, were among the highest risk factors, according to the agency.
"We don't have an alternative," Councilman Felipe Aguirre said "Nobody will insure us, not as long as we have the Police Department, even though we haven't had any claims filed against us recently."
The City Council will meet Monday to discuss what happens next — whether the city will contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department or the city of Bell for police services.
The Maywood- Cudahy Police Department patrolled a gritty, two-square-mile area that includes Maywood and Cudahy, which has a population of about 70,000 — almost half of their residents undocumented — just south of Los Angeles. Until recently, the force appeared to function as a virtual refuge for misfit police officers. Although the city instituted numerous reforms under a year-old consent decree, officials said it was still too early to say whether the department had successfully turned itself around.
"It's hard to accept," Police Chief Frank Hauptmann said. "I really felt we made that turn … and to find that it ended this way makes it difficult for the members of the department and community members who supported the Police Department."
In April 2007, the California attorney general's office launched an investigation into the department after the Los Angeles Times reported that roughly a third of the department's officers had been forced out of previous police jobs or had brushes with the law.
The attorney general's report concluded that the department was "permeated with sexual innuendo, harassment, vulgarity, discourtesy to members of the public as well as among officers, and a lack of cultural, racial and ethnic sensitivity and respect." The probe also found that officers routinely used excessive force, made arrests without probable cause and failed to investigate complaints.
As a result of that probe, the city approved a stipulated court order to reform the department. Among other requirements, the department was directed to install video cameras in the police station and in police vehicles. Officers also were required to carry digital recorders on patrol.
On Wednesday, the attorney general's office said the department had gone 11 months into a reform process that was expected to last three years. "While progress has been made over the past year, the Maywood Police Department is still in the early stages of reform," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.
The Maywood Police Department also patrolled Cudahy, although tensions had grown between the two cities. Maywood officials say their decision to disband the Police Department will not leave residents of the cities unprotected.
For several months, Maywood has been considering a plan to create a joint law enforcement agency with neighboring Bell. In a recent interview, Bell Police Chief Randy Adams said his force was ready to assist.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has been contacted by Maywood officials, sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
Talks about the possibility of contracting with the Sheriff's Department to take over policing in the city were informal, Whitmore said. There have been no specific negotiations over costs or timelines, he said.
"If Maywood would lose its ability to have a police force, we would certainly be there to fill in," Whitmore said.
Times staff writer Robert Faturechi contributed to this report.