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LAPD disciplinary panel says controversial officer should be fired

A Los Angeles Police Department disciplinary panel has recommended the firing of a veteran detective for allegedly making racially charged comments during a training lecture given to other officers.

An attorney representing Frank Lyga said the 28-year department veteran had apologized to the board of rights for most of his controversial remarks and was deeply disappointed with the decision.

Ira Salzman said the board announced its decision Wednesday afternoon.

“It was misconduct ... but Frank acknowledged what he did was wrong and was fully honest about it,” Salzman said. “To fire him over words is entirely wrong.”

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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck must now decide whether to impose the punishment or reduce it.

A department spokesman declined to comment, saying officer discipline is confidential under state law.

Lyga’s comments were recorded by an African American officer who attended the training class in November, according to Jasmyne Cannick, a political consultant and writer who publicly released the recording earlier this year. News of the board of rights’ decision this week was first reported by Cannick.

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FOR THE RECORD

Oct. 16, 9:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that LA Weekly first reported the news of the board’s decision. It was first reported by Jasmyne Cannick.

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Salzman said the department did not accuse Lyga of racism and that Lyga denied his remarks were racist.

But the three-person disciplinary panel found that two of the officer’s comments were racial, Salzman said. Among the remarks was one in which Lyga called noted civil rights lawyer Carl Douglas, who is African American, an “Ewok.”

The other comment involved Lyga’s 1997 fatal shooting of Kevin Gaines, an off-duty police officer. The shooting sparked racial tensions within the department because Gaines was black and Lyga is white.

Lyga recounted a confrontation with an attorney who represented Gaines’ family in their lawsuit. The attorney asked if he regretted shooting Gaines.

“I said, ‘No, I regret he was alone in the truck at the time,’ ” Lyga said. “I could have killed a whole truckload of them and I would have been happy doing so.”

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Salzman said Lyga later explained that he should have said he would have shot anybody who was trying to kill him.

According to police accounts of the Gaines shooting, Lyga was working in an undercover narcotics operation when he became involved in a traffic dispute with Gaines. Neither man was aware the other was a police officer.

Gaines reportedly pulled a gun on Lyga, threatening him. Lyga, who said he feared for his life, fired twice at Gaines, killing him. Salzman said a department investigation of the shooting cleared Lyga of wrongdoing.

At the recent board of rights hearing, Salzman said, Lyga pleaded guilty to making inappropriate remarks heard on the recording, including insults directed at a female LAPD captain, a lieutenant and others, including Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the late attorney who also represented Gaines’ family.

Salzman said he argued that a suspension would have been a more appropriate punishment.

He said several witnesses, including African American officers, testified on behalf of Lyga, saying he was a dedicated officer who was deeply affected by the Gaines shooting and believed the department failed to publicly support him.

“The department cares more about perception than the facts,” Salzman said.

For more Southern California news, follow @jackfleonard, @lacrimes and @katemather.

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