By Kelly Goff
LOS ANGELES — Police Chief Charlie Beck has defended his decision to overrule a disciplinary board's recommendation to fire a police officer with close family ties to the department, denying favoritism played a role in his determination.
A Los Angeles Police Department disciplinary board found that Officer Shaun Hillman should be terminated for lack of integrity, stemming from an investigation into an off-duty incident at a Riverside County bar. Hillman was caught on tape using a racial slur during a late-night altercation in Norco but later denied it to LAPD investigators. The board advised that he be fired for lying in the investigation, not for the fight itself.
Beck overruled the board's decision, something he has done just twice in his term as the city's top cop, and handed down a 65-day suspension instead.
Hillman's father is a retired LAPD officer, and his uncle is former Deputy Chief Michael Hillman, a popular commanding officer who moved up through the ranks at the same time as Beck, which aroused speculation that the chief's decision was unfair.
But speaking to reporters after a Board of Police Commissioners meeting in San Pedro Tuesday night, Beck said he applied a stringent standard for disciplining officers, and his finding in the Hillman case was in line with those standards.
"It has become a very public issue, but that can't be what drives my decision," Beck said. "Favoritism had nothing to do with my decision on this."
Beck pointed out the board ultimately substantiated just three of the eight violations levied at Hillman and that punishment had to be tempered with those findings.
Last week, police commission President Steve Soboroff acknowledged the controversy at a board meeting, referencing the chief's ongoing evaluation. Beck's first five-year term ends this year.
"Our discussions with the chief that are ongoing right now are healthy discussions regarding evaluation, which is what we're supposed to be doing right now," said Soboroff. "And is this part of it? Of course, it's part of it."
Soboroff has since said the chief is often in a tough position but that he and the commission can work well together even if they disagree on some decisions.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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