Crime & Justice

Beck to review ex-LAPD officers' wrongful termination claims after reopening of Dorner case

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck speaks to reporters at Police Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck speaks to reporters at Police Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Tuesday pledged to review disciplinary cases of fired cops who believe they've been wrongfully terminated, so long as their claims "appear to have substance."

The pledge was inspired by at least six ex-LAPD officers who asked the officer's union to urge the chief to relook at their cases in wake of his reopening accused murderer Christopher Dorner's case.

Dorner blamed the LAPD for ruining his life after the department fired him in 2008 for falsely accusing a superior officer of misconduct. In a now-famous online manifesto, Dorner said he was treated unfairly during LAPD's disciplinary process. He later allegedly murdered Monica Quan, the daughter of the attorney who represented him during the process, as well as her fiance, Keith Lawrence in Irvine.

After Dorner's death during a standoff with San Bernardino sheriff's deputies in a mountain cabin, Beck pledged to continue his review of Dorner's case, hoping to prove that the system is fair. 

"We are only as good as the public thinks we are," Beck said at the time. Tuesday, Beck reiterated his faith in the Board of Rights process, a system, he said, that's been built and altered over generations.

That process will look at perceptions of fairness when dealing with race, gender and rank, and will involve input from officers, Beck said.

"I don't think there's any inherent flaws to the system," Beck said "I think the biggest flaws that are likely to occur is the application of the system." 

Beck also reiterated his support for making such hearings public--a change that would have to come from the state legislature. 

Commission President Andrea Sheridan Ordin acknowledged the difficulty involved in reopening the Dorner case but said the review is necessary.

"There will be people who said we shouldn't have said anything at all; then you have a group of people say they don't talk to us, they don't care about us, and we have legitimate concerns, and no one's answering them," Ordin said.

"I'm not saying there's any single right answer, but we just have to believe that more information, accurate information, well-thought-through information and recommendations are better than ignoring it," she added.

Ordin, a longtime attorney, was a member of the Christopher Commission, which examined the LAPD after the beating of Rodney King.

About a dozen protesters at Tuesday's commission demanded an independent review ofDorner's claims.

"We refuse to be able to continue to be duped that Bonnie can investigate Clyde," said David Dang, an organizer for Occupy The Hood Los Angeles.

In the meantime, Izen said officers are hoping to get more clarity from the department about the review process and what it might mean for them and their own disciplinary proceedings.

"This case was done, and went to the courts," Izen said. "So I don't know where it goes from here. We're waiting for the chief to tell us."

Wrongful termination claims are common with LAPD, as they are with many government agencies. Once such claims go through LAPD’s internal system, fired employees can also sue the department, as Dorner did unsuccessfully.

For the past 5 years, the department has averaged 25 employment lawsuits per year, up from 17 per year from 2002-2006. In 2011, the city paid out $24 million in liability claims against LAPD, though that figure includes a broad array of claims, including traffic accidents and use of force lawsuits.