In a widely-read Daily News editorial last December, League Director John Mumma wrote, “the City must rethink policies instead of cutting LAPD.” The piece had been prompted by the City’s numerous seven-figure settlement payouts for the mistreatment of its employees. In just three years, 13 officers had been awarded more than $43 million in lawsuits against the Department and the City for illegal employment practices.
Now make that $45 million and 15 officers!
On Monday, one current and one retired LAPD officer were awarded a total of more than $2 million by a jury who found that the officers were retaliated against by a commanding officer for not meeting a ticket-writing “quota.” Retired officer Howard Chan was awarded $1.12 million, most of it for emotional distress, while Officer David Benioff received $950,000, all of it for emotional distress. Substantial attorney’s fees are yet to be awarded.
Following an all-too-familiar script, lawyers in the City turned down an offer from the officers’ attorney to settle the case for $500,000. By taking the case to trial, the City is now on the hook for a much higher amount awarded by a jury and has incurred significant legal costs in the process.
We agree with Councilmember Dennis Zine, a former 20-year LAPD motorcycle sergeant and League Director, in his unhappiness that the matter wasn’t resolved long before it entered the judicial system.
"You can't violate the law to enforce the law," Zine told the Los Angeles Times in expressing disappointment with the verdict. "You can't mandate the number of tickets."
At a time when the LAPD is deploying fewer officers to patrol our city’s streets and neighborhoods, and when other city services are being curtailed, it is particularly galling that systemic abuses within the Department continue to happen and result in the loss of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars through jury awards in cases that could and should have been settled long before they went to trial.
Not only is this indicative of the unlawful treatment of some LAPD officers by some management, but from a budgetary standpoint, how many more costly Department management mistakes can the City of Los Angeles afford? The answer, of course, has always been ‘zero.’ You would think that someone at City Hall would perk up and ask questions about these cases and their huge price tags. Of course, you would also think that the Department would learn from their mistakes and put a stop to these situations.