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LAPD officers feel discipline is biased, inconsistent and unfair

Police Chief Charlie Beck in our studio to discuss issues facing the LAPD. What questions do you have for them?
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck.

A survey of 500 Los Angeles Police Department sworn and civilian employees showed widespread concern that the internal disciplinary process is inconsistent and discriminates based on gender, race, and rank.

The survey was done shortly after former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was killed in February. The disgruntled ex-officer murdered four people and prompted a massive manhunt before fatally shooting himself during a standoff  in the San Bernardino Mountains.

RELATED: The manhunt for Christopher Dorner

Though officers expressed disgust with Dorner's actions, some said his grievances about disciplinary bias within the police department sounded legitimate. After a review of Dorner's disciplinary hearing, the department declared his firing was justified.

The LAPD asked focus groups of employees to give anonymous feedback using a computer system. A group of academics and human relations consultants analyzed the feedback to look for trends.

Below is a sampling of some of the comments published in the survey report.

  • “Females are held to a lesser standard due to fear of lawsuits or claims of bias.”
  • “Race is a factor in the discipline system.”
  • “The media and public pressure have a direct impact on how discipline investigations are handled.”
  • “Discipline is not imposed when it involves managers and supervisors.”

L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck has been criticized for inconsistent discipline for several years now. It surged in the last year or so when a few LAPD captains filed lawsuits alleging unfair discipline and retaliation, saying Beck did not follow top brass recommendations for disciplining other officers. It has been one of the complaints of the L.A. police union that represents the rank-and-file.

The report stated there is a common perception among those surveyed that the LAPD’s internal disciplinary system is biased. Participants also said more information from the department is needed in order to fully understand the disciplinary process and decisions made.

Departmental data collected from 2010 to 2013 shows that the ethnicity of employees directed to disciplinary hearings is nearly identical to the racial make up of the LAPD, the report said.

“Therefore, the decisions made by the Department and the Chief of Police to direct a sworn employee do not appear to be biased based on ethnicity,” the report states.

The report did find that more male officers were sent to disciplinary hearings than female officers.  

Employees in the focus groups also said they believed the disciplinary system was flawed because there are too many complaints lodged against them.

About 28 percent of LAPD employees on average have one or more complaints filed against them during a year, according to the report.

Among the recommendations for improvement:

  • publish a penalty guideline so officers know what disciplinary measure to expect
  • train supervisors on how to take and investigate complaints against employees
  • develop an explicit anti-nepotism policy.

Beck could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League hailed the report as confirmation of complaints from their members about disciplinary inconsistency.

"These are the same concerns that we have brought forth since shortly after Beck was appointed," LAPPL President Tyler Izen said in a written statement.

"The LAPD’s own analysis had confirmed that officers believe that personnel investigations are unfair, punishments in the LAPD are often subjective and the Department overlooks misconduct by high-ranking officials," Izen said.