What is Charter Amendment C?
Charter Amendment C is an attempt by the L.A. police union to further reduce the likelihood that LAPD officers will be held accountable for their bad acts by changing the make-up of the “Board of Rights”—the disciplinary review board for LAPD officers—to include only the individuals found to be the most lenient towards officers.
What is the Board of Rights?
The Board of Rights is a three-person panel that hears appeals by LAPD officers who have been found to have engaged in serious misconduct and have been given serious discipline. Officers only go before the Board of Rights after the chief of police has already determined that they committed serious misconduct and he recommends that they be fired, demoted or suspended. Officers challenge this punishment with the Board of Rights, and the Board of Rights can choose to accept the chief’s recommendation or can give the officer less punishment or no punishment at all. The board cannot choose to punish officers the chief has already decided not to punish or increase the punishment the chief recommends.
Who is on the Board of Rights now?
Under the current charter, the three-person panel that makes up the Board of Rights is randomly selected from a pool of participants and is different each time, but currently every panel must include two LAPD commanding officers and one “civilian.” The only civilians that can serve on the Board of Rights are those with at least seven years’ experience with arbitration or similar work, and they are selected after a private interview with the executive director of the Police Commission. If individuals don’t vote in favor of officers, they are removed from the pool of eligible civilians. This process excludes the majority of Los Angeles civilians, and especially the communities that are most affected by policing. Charter Amendment C would give officers the option of appearing before a three-person panel made up of only civilians selected in this way.
Does the Board of Rights do a good job of holding LAPD officers accountable?
Unfortunately, no. Even though all officers that appear before the Board of Rights have already been found guilty of serious misconduct by the chief—which is a difficult hurdle itself—the Board of Rights routinely overturns the chief’s recommendation and imposes a lesser punishment, or no punishment at all.
Over the last five years, the chief recommended firing 229 officers, but the Board of Rights only recommended firing in 112 cases—less than half.
How do civilians vote on the Board of Rights?
The civilian members on the Board of Rights are consistently more lenient than officers. Over the last six years, in every case where the Board of Rights reduced or eliminated the punishment for officers that the chief recommended terminating, the civilian member voted for acquittal. That means that even in cases where there was a 2 to 1 vote to reduce the chief’s recommended penalty, the civilian voted for the more lenient option every single time.
Why should you vote #NoOnC?
1) Charter Amendment C will undermine police accountability. The civilian members of the Board of Rights are its most lenient members. They consistently vote to overturn findings of wrongdoing or to lessen the discipline imposed by the chief of police. A panel made up solely of these civilians will only result in even fewer officers being punished for wrongdoing, and end up back on the street.
2) Charter Amendment C will result in greater legal liability for Los Angeles. An all-civilian panel will even more frequently overturn the chief’s conclusion that an officer committed serious misconduct and should be fired, which means that more of these officers will remain on the force and continue to interact with the public, undoubtedly resulting in even greater legal liabilities for the City of Los Angeles. It will also embolden other officers who will now know that they can commit grave misconduct and keep their jobs—all at the city’s expense.
3) Charter Amendment C was never intended to provide real civilian oversight or LAPD accountability. This measure was crafted by the LAPD officers’ union after failed attempts to prevent Chief Beck from disciplining officers. The union has long known that the civilians—as currently selected to the Board of Rights—consistently vote to reduce or eliminate punishment, and a report requested by the L.A. City Council verified this bias. The union’s only goal is reducing the likelihood that any officer will receive punishment, and the politicians that support this measure, like Mayor Garcetti and Council President Wesson, are doing so knowing that it will result in fewer LAPD officers held accountable.
4) Charter Amendment C prevents any possibility of future civilian oversight. This measure gives officers the option to pick whether to challenge a disciplinary decision before the new three-civilian panel or the traditional panel with two officers and one civilian. Even if changes were made to the all-civilian panel to become more representative of the community or more likely to hold officers accountable, the officers can simply choose to avoid the civilian panel. This measure is fundamentally flawed and can never result in real oversight. That is why groups that support civilian oversight and police accountability oppose Charter Amendment C.