City to pay $50,000 to ex-LAPD detective who sued after being fired for racially charged remarks
The city of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former Los Angeles Police Department detective who was fired after making racially charged remarks during a training session and then sued to get his job back.
The settlement signals the end of a federal lawsuit that Frank Lyga filed last year, alleging the city discriminated against him because he was a “white police officer who was wrongfully perceived to be racist.”
“Lyga was not reinstated as part of the agreement,” said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.
Under the terms of the agreement — signed by Lyga late last month and by a deputy city attorney on Friday — the city admitted no “past or present wrongdoing.”
Lyga’s attorney did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Lyga made headlines in 2014 after an audio recording surfaced of remarks he made during a question-and-answer session that followed a November 2013 police training seminar about search warrants. Lyga delivered an expletive-laden rant, calling a prominent black civil rights attorney an “ewok,” saying a female LAPD captain had been “swapped around a bunch of times” and describing a lieutenant as a “moron.”
Lyga also discussed his fatal 1997 shooting of a fellow officer, Kevin Gaines. While off-duty, Gaines became involved in a traffic dispute with Lyga, who was working undercover at the time. Neither man apparently knew the other was a police officer.
The shooting stirred racial tensions within the LAPD. Gaines was black. Lyga is white.
At the end of his lecture during the 2013 training session, Lyga recalled his confrontation with Carl Douglas, the attorney representing Gaines’ family and the same man Lyga called an “ewok.” Douglas, Lyga said, had asked if he had any regrets about the shooting.
“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 it.”
After the recording — which had been made secretly by someone at the lecture — surfaced, Lyga admitted some of his remarks were inappropriate and apologized.
But an LAPD disciplinary panel recommended that Chief Charlie Beck fire Lyga, concluding that although Lyga had not been accused of racism, his speech had “an underlying racial tone.”
Beck sided with the panel, but Lyga’s attorney said the detective retired before the department could terminate him. Lyga had worked for the LAPD for 28 years.
In his lawsuit, Lyga alleged that a black officer would not have been fired for making the same comments, accusing department officials of being “motivated by political pressure” from the African American community.”
Follow me on Twitter: @katemather
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.