LAPD chief can’t fire crooked cops. Some want to change that

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“We've tried it out for the last two and a half years, and what it has shown is that it has not increased accountability,” Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez says about Measure C. “It's actually done the opposite of what it intended [to].” Photo by Shutterstock.

When a Los Angeles Police Department officer is accused of misconduct like using excessive force and tampering with evidence, they appear before a three-member Board of Rights to be disciplined. 

Traditionally, that panel would consist of one civilian and two high-ranking LAPD officers. That changed in 2019 when the ballot measure Charter Amendment C, also known as Measure C, kicked in. It gave police officers the option of defending themselves in front of a board made up of three civilians, alongside the traditional panel.  

Two council members want to see the legislation repealed, the police chief get more power to fire officers, and overhaul of the LAPD’s disciplinary process.

District 13 Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez is one of them, and he discusses the motion he introduced with his colleague Tim McOsker. 

Why do you believe the all-civilian option helps officers evade accountability?

The proof is in the pudding. If you look at the two different options that a police officer has right now, 91% of them are deciding to go to the all-civilian board. When there's a decision made [in] 75% of those decisions, they receive either zero punishment or less punishment than the police chief [recommended]. So overwhelmingly the police officers are choosing the all-civilian Board of Rights, because it's just way more lenient.

Why do you believe all-civilian panels are more lenient than traditional panels?

Different groups have been highlighting these issues. The all-civilian board [consists of] folks that are nominated by the LA Police Commission, and they found that civilians just don't understand the minutiae of what police discipline looks like.

The other factor [comes] when these decisions are being litigated. In this process the police union (LA Police Protective League), which is representing the police officers, has attorneys. The LAPD, which is representing the police chief or the department, doesn't, so it's a very lopsided system.

Who is sitting on these panels and how are they selected?

There are certain requirements that [the police commission] asks, one of which is that they have expertise in courtroom settings or mediation.

Disproportionately it's folks that have some background in policing or have relationships with police, and so even the name all-civilian board is actually a misnomer. It's not a representation of what perhaps we would find in a jury, which is mostly all-civilian. So in my opinion, it's pretty biased,

Do you think repealing Measure C goes against the will of the voters?

I don't think so because I think [when the voters] passed it … they thought that it would increase accountability. 

We've tried it out for the last two and a half years, and what it has shown is that it has not increased accountability. It's actually done the opposite of what it intended [to]. 

What does the LAPD chief think about the motion?

I believe there are over 60 police officers who [Chief Michel Moore] recommended termination for and they're still working. So he's come out in favor of having the ability to have more power over terminating police officers.

What would you say to people who criticize your bid to give the police chief more termination powers? 

If we look at what happened in Memphis, the police [who played a role in the deadly arrest of Tyre Nichols] … were able to be fired, and here it's the opposite. 

In the 1920s … the chief did have the ability to fire and I would say, moreover, that I don't think it's any different from any other job. I worked at the hotel workers union, and housekeepers and dishwashers were fired all the time. … It would be consistent with how other other employers act.

How would you like to see the LAPD’s disciplinary process overhauled?

Number one. we have to give the police chief the ability to terminate a police officer if their actions merit that … which would require an amendment to the charter.

Second, removing the all-civilian Board of Rights, which we've seen does not work.

Then looking at the traditional Board of Rights and seeing how we can make changes so that we can allow community groups to sit on those boards, folks that are working on police accountability, [and] advocates that have been fighting to change the justice system. Those are the voices that we should be [having to make] these decisions.




Tara Atrian