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Reform may cost city $1M

Fixing troubled police department will be expensive but necessary, city attorney says.

January 02, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

CITY HALL — City Atty. Dennis Barlow on Tuesday is expected to ask the City Council for $1.2 million to fund investigations into alleged police misconduct and to adopt policies to prevent similar problems.

Barlow said $1 million would pay for the services of former U.S. Atty. Debra Wong Yang and Merrick Bobb, director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, to help reform the Police Department.

“This is expensive, but it is cheaper than not doing anything,” Barlow said. “If we don’t do anything now the cost could be greater, whether that means litigation, prosecution or consent decrees.”

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Yang, a member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, and Bobb were hired last month as Scott LaChasse prepares to take over as interim police chief Thursday.

Tim Stehr retired from the post last week amid an FBI investigation into alleged excessive use of force and five lawsuits filed against the city by eight current and former officers. A veteran police sergeant named in the FBI probe committed suicide Oct. 29 on a public street, casting further scrutiny on the department.

Yang, of the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, commands an hourly rate of $855, and her associate is paid $610 per hour, officials said. The fee for Bobb’s services, about $75,000, will be paid to the Police Assessment Resource Center, a nonprofit focused on police oversight and reform.

Councilman David Gordon questioned the agreed-upon rates and called for further clarification of who will receive and review the work.

“I don’t think it’s been clearly defined just how this money will be spent,” Gordon said.

Yang and Bobb are expected to develop policies to prevent similar situations from arising in the future, according to a memo to the City Council.

Barlow said they will also help the city prepare for any future legal challenges created by the current morass.

Barlow said he plans to request an additional $200,000 to pay for the services of attorney Richard Kreisler, of the firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, and James Gardiner, a retired police chief.

The pair were hired to investigate the department after Stehr in April learned that earlier probes of excessive use of force by officers may not have been accurate because some officers were dishonest to investigators, Barlow said.

They’re expected to wrap up their investigation in the next couple of weeks.

City officials also requested the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s to probe the department.

Barlow emphasized that the majority of officers were dedicated public servants with no hint of ethical or legal breeches, “but it is also understood that even a few individuals can seriously taint an entire department, and when serious allegations are made they must be fully and fairly investigated.”

Councilman Dave Golonski called setting aside the funds “prudent.”

“Regardless of how this plays out, it’s going to be an expensive process,” he said.


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