A growing number of Los Angeles police officers who have used excessive force, driven while intoxicated, falsely imprisoned people or committed other serious misconduct are being let off without punishment as part of a new, controversial approach to discipline at the LAPD.
Instead of handing down suspensions without pay, as was the norm for such offenses, police officials increasingly are putting officers on notice that another gaffe of the same sort will bring a severe penalty and possible termination.
"The way it's being handled minimizes the seriousness of these situations," Commissioner Alan Skobin told Deputy Chief Mark Perez, who oversees discipline. "If an officer commits a criminal act — the two good examples are DUIs and domestic violence — there is some real angst … when, basically, in the department the worst thing that happens is that they're being told, 'The next time you do that it's going to be serious.' "
Perez, who runs the department's Professional Standards Bureau, is the architect of the LAPD's new take on how to deal with troublesome officers. Under Chief Charlie Beck and his predecessor, William Bratton, the 29-year LAPD veteran began working to design a system that, as he often says, emphasizes "strategy over penalty."
Similar to the way prison sentences are used to deter and punish criminals, this strategy assumes that the threat of punishment will keep officers from stepping out of line.