The top commander in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart station has been removed from his post after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, police said.
Captain Steve Ruiz, a 25-year veteran of the LAPD, was arrested by a California Highway Patrol officer shortly before 1:30 a.m. May 30, according to CHP Officer Saul Gomez.
The arrest occurred just off of the 101 Freeway at Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks, said Gomez, who would not provide any details about the circumstances that led the officer to stop Ruiz. Gomez also declined to release the results of a field sobriety test and breathalyzer test administered to Ruiz.
Instead of being taken into custody and booked into jail, as is commonly done with drunk driving suspects, the CHP officer opted to impound Ruiz’s vehicle and release him into the care of a friend or family member, Gomez said.
LAPD officials declined to discuss the arrest. Cmdr. Andy Smith confirmed only that Ruiz is no longer running the Rampart station and has been reassigned to “a non-field assignment pending the outcome” of the criminal proceedings and an internal LAPD investigation.
Alcohol abuse is a persistent issue in the LAPD, with several dozen officers investigated each year for drunk driving or other alcohol-related incidents, according to department statistics.
The problem has received increased scrutiny in recent years as members of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, have raised concerns about what they see as Police Chief Charlie Beck’s lenient handling of such cases.
Under Beck, officers have frequently received a warning for their first offense and told they will be fired or given a lengthy suspension for second incident. Beck has defended the approach, saying it is more effective than the traditional discipline system, which allowed officers with several alcohol-related incidents to remain on the job and doled out incrementally more severe punishments.