The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday approved an ordinance that will allow police officers the option of having their discipline cases heard by an all-civilian review board of three members, or choosing the current option of two command-level officers and a civilian.
A measure calling for the change was placed on the May 2017 ballot by the City Council with the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Council President Herb Wesson and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing the department's rank-and-file officers. Charter Amendment C passed with 57.14 percent of the vote.
The LAPD's current rules require the civilian panel members to have a clean criminal record and at least seven years experience with arbitration, mediation, administrative hearings or comparable work.
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Those requirements have led the Board of Rights panels to be stocked with retired judges and lawyers.
Wesson has been working to change the rules so other types of residents could serve on the panels.
The ordinance was approved on a 12-0 vote, and needs to be signed by Garcetti to become official, but it does not specify what types of civilians can serve on the review panels, which the council will need to finalize with the Board of Police Commissioners.
The commission last year approved changes to the qualifications for civilian hearing examiners to enhance diversity, increase the number of eligible city residents and allow for the inclusion of retired police officers who have been off the force at least one year.
The commission submitted a report to the City Council in December outlining some proposed changes, but the council's vote asks the commission to concur with a new recommendation that officers be off the force for five years, and that retired officers be prohibited as a civilian panel member for a period of two years after the effective date of the ordinance.
The Police Commission last year also recommended that civilian panel members should have at least three years' experience in human resources, personnel relations, labor relations or personnel matters related to recommending, administering, adjudicating or reviewing the administration of discipline, but the council's vote asks the commission to concur with lowering the time to two years experience.
A report from the ACLU of Southern California, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and the Community Coalition said people with past arrests should not be excluded from the panels, but that retired police officers should be excluded.
The commission had recommended that people on the panels should not have a criminal record that would impact their ability to act impartially, but the council's vote asks it to concur with new language that says panel members shall not have a "sustained allegation of misconduct related to the applicant's employment or profession that would impact his or her ability to be impartial."
The LAPPL has argued the current system is unfair, citing the belief that the police chief has undue influence on sworn members of Board of Rights panels.
Wesson, Garcetti and the council pushed for Measure C to be placed on the ballot despite a study of the LAPD's system that found civilians are generally more lenient on officers.
"If statistics and numbers would indicate that there is a certain degree of leniency when people, civilians, citizens are involved, then we need to change the way that we select the citizens," Wesson said in 2017.