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LAPD commander involved in controversial car crash is demoted

A Los Angeles police commander has been demoted to captain after his city car was found wrecked and abandoned in Carson.

Jeff Nolte, 52, who headed the LAPD’s Force Investigation Group, has been on paid leave since he crashed his unmarked Dodge Charger on Jan. 24, then left the scene.

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With an investigation into his conduct underway, Nolte’s rank was reduced one rung earlier this week, Josh Rubenstein, the department's communications director, said Friday.

A department transfer list dated Feb. 26 lists Nolte’s new rank, noting that it took effect retroactively on Feb. 17.

Nolte is no longer assigned to the team that investigates shootings by LAPD officers but is instead with the personnel department, a status sometimes given to those on military leave or restricted duty.

He will continue to collect a sum about twice his usual pay, after signing up for the Deferred Retirement Option Plan days after the late-night car crash.

Because he is enrolled in DROP, his pension will not be reduced by the demotion, officials said.

Nolte, who has been with the LAPD for over 30 years, has declined to comment and did not return calls from The Times about his demotion on Friday.

The crash is the latest scandal involving a high-ranking LAPD officer and a city car in recent months.

Asst. Chief Jorge Villegas retired in October after an LAPD surveillance team witnessed him apparently engaging in sexual activity with a female subordinate inside his department-issued car.

The circumstances of Nolte’s car crash remain murky. His Dodge Charger was discovered wrecked near the intersection of 213th Street and Avalon Boulevard in Carson.

Several motorists in the area called 911 to report that a severely damaged car was being driven at a fairly high speed on the southbound 405 Freeway.

The recordings, first obtained by ABC7, suggest the motorists feared for their safety.

One motorist told the operator that the driver appeared to be “really drunk” and was “driving a damaged vehicle, just driving on the front axle. ...The front wheel is completely gone.”

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Sources confirmed the car was Nolte’s. Simeon Yarbrough, a California Highway Patrol spokesman for the area, said the car had been in a crash near the 110 and 405 freeways.

The mangled vehicle was found about 4:40 a.m. the next morning by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. The LAPD assumed jurisdiction over the investigation, even though the crash occurred outside city limits.

Nolte was put on paid leave soon after. By then, he had already signed up for DROP, which pays city police officers and firefighters their salaries and early pension payments simultaneously for the last five years of their careers as an incentive for experienced workers to stay on the job.

Nolte’s salary in 2017 was $200,000. City pension officials estimate his monthly pension checks will be $13,872, or about $166,000 a year.

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