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By PORAC | February 1, 2016 | Posted in PORAC LDF News

Strike Two for Inglewood Police Chief

Founding Partner
Dawson & Riley, LLP

A police detective with over 16 years of law enforcement experience and no prior discipline has repeatedly been targeted by the Inglewood Police Department. Shortly after her successful litigation against false allegations by the Department, wherein the Department tried to demote her and impose a 10-day suspension, the appellant was again placed under investigation for allegations of misconduct. This time, the Department imposed a 240-hour suspension based on allegations of incompetency, false statements and absence without leave. Andrew M. Dawson of Dawson & Riley, LLP, successfully represented the detective throughout the litigation, wherein the entire discipline once again was overturned by the arbitrator. During both attempts to impose significant discipline against this detective, the Department has failed to sustain any allegations of misconduct.

The first set of allegations stemmed from what was called the Craigslist investigation. At the time, the appellant was assigned to the Robbery Division. In 2011, she was handling multiple robberies relating to suspects targeting individuals who were trying to sell items on Craigslist. There were a number of robberies that occurred in both Inglewood and Los Angeles, so the cases were ultimately combined and the suspect pled out to 28 years. Despite the substantial plea deal entered by the suspect, the Department still alleged that the appellant was incompetent in her handling of the investigation, which included allegations of DA shopping, failing to return phone calls from the DA’s Office, misusing interrogation techniques with the suspect and a delay in completing “six-packs” for the investigation.

Despite the absence of any written policy stating that DA shopping is prohibited, the Department alleged that the appellant was guilty of misconduct for contacting two different DAs to file the case. The appellant initially contacted the first filing DA, and the case was returned for further investigation. Upon completing the additional work requested by the first filing DA, the appellant returned a couple of weeks later to refile the case. When she arrived, the initial filing DA had someone in his office, so she walked into the other filing DA’s office to file the case. The DA took the file and held on to it for approximately two months. The Department alleged that the appellant’s actions resulted in a waste of resources at the DA’s Office, despite any evidence as to how much time was actually spent by each DA reviewing the case. Given the circumstances, the arbitrator held that it was reasonable for the appellant to present the case to the other filing DA and that her actions did not constitute “shopping.”
The Department further alleged that the appellant failed to return messages from the DA’s Office regarding the case. There was not one shred of physical evidence — text messages, phone bills, emails, etc. — from the DA’s Office to the appellant to substantiate this allegation. The arbitrator held that “[c]ertainly inferences were raised based on statements during the IA interviews; however, there was a virtual desert of any records to corroborate this serious allegation.”

Based on speculative arguments by the DA’s Office, the Department also alleged that the appellant violated the suspect’s constitutional rights based on promises of leniency during the suspect’s interview. However, there was no court documentation showing that the DA was precluded from utilizing the admissions made by the suspect. Also, the LAPD detective who was present during the interview never objected to the statements made to the suspect, and the appellant’s supervisors never made any issue prior to her filing the matter with the DA. One would expect that if it was such a blatant violation, a senior detective and the appellant’s supervisors would recognize the alleged issue. Moreover, the case law did not support the filing DA’s understanding of promises of leniency. The arbitrator agreed that the evidence did not support a finding that the appellant’s statements to the suspect resulted in a “‘death spike’ into the legal efficacy of the confession.”

During the Craigslist investigation, the appellant had conducted some six-packs. However, after she had a confession and there were some victims who were not able to identify the suspect, she decided not to do any further six-packs to avoid creating possible exculpatory evidence for the defense. The filing DA claimed that she had requested six-packs to be completed for all of the victims and that her failure to complete the six-packs was the reason for the delay in filing the case. The evidence proved that the appellant did not intentionally delay the completion of six-packs, and her explanation was deemed reasonable and persuasive by the arbitrator. In sum, the arbitrator held that there was no competency concern regarding the appellant’s handling of this investigation.

After receiving a verbal complaint from the supervising DA regarding the appellant’s handling of the Craigslist investigation, three Department managers (a captain, a lieutenant and a sergeant) summoned the appellant into a closed-door meeting, which they claimed was solely to determine what resources the appellant needed to assist her in the investigation. Despite this characterization by Department management to try to circumvent the appellant’s rights under the Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights (POBR), Department officials admitted to questioning the appellant during that meeting, and the day after the meeting the Department sought to transfer her out of the Robbery Division. During that meeting, the Department alleged that the appellant was dishonest when she stated that the filing DA was sitting on the case. The appellant, during her IA and at the hearing, stated that she believed the filing DA still had the case, because the DA never returned the file to the appellant during the two-month period in which these events transpired. The arbitrator held that when the appellant made the statement, she had no intent to deceive and her statement was truthful based on her belief at the time. Given that there was no evidence of dishonesty, the arbitrator declared that the issue regarding the violation of the appellant’s POBR rights was moot.

The last-ditch effort by the Department to allege misconduct by the appellant was an allegation regarding an incident on October 10, 2011, when she took the day off for her birthday. The appellant followed the usual protocol and turned in a vacation request slip to a detective sergeant prior to the date in question. In accordance with the Detective Bureau practice, detectives rarely received written confirmation approving days off. Rather, they were just informed verbally if there was a problem with the requested date. Given that she was never advised that she could not take the day off, she did not report to work on October 10. At no time did the Department attempt to contact her on that date to find out why she was not at work. Rather, they waited until she returned to question her about her alleged unauthorized absence. The Department disputed that the appellant turned in any paperwork prior to taking the day off. The only evidence to support the Department’s claim was what the appellant claims is her original request form that she dated on October 4, 2011, which contained a self-serving handwritten note from a supervisor stating that he received it on October 13, 2011. Given the lack of evidence, the arbitrator found the appellant credible in her testimony that she believed that she had approval for the leave at the time that she took it.

The arbitrator held that all of the allegations and the suspension must be erased from the appellant’s record and that she be made whole in wages and benefits. The appellant is grateful to Dawson & Riley, LLP, and PORAC LDF for their continued support against these meritless accusations by her Department.