By John Brock
Los Angeles Police Department Officer Shaun Hillmann was found to have lied to investigators investigating his conduct in an incident involving his making a racist remark and inappropriately pulling a gun while off duty. Chief Charlie Beck overruled a panel that recommended firing Hillmann. Hillmann has a father and an uncle who are retired LAPD. The question presented is what does this say about the Chief’s and the department’s attitude about lying.
It is an important question, because they are asking us to believe them as they tell some pretty fishy stories. For example, the Chief had his spokesman Cmdr. Andrew Smith state that they failed to tell the Police commission that the seller in the horse episode was the Chief’s daughter because it was not part of the standard procedure to do so. This doesn’t really seem like a standard transaction. The identity of the seller is really the only important fact in this deal. Smith also told us how Beck “deliberately stayed out of the decision of whether (the horse) should be bought.“ But, whoops, in fact the Chief signed off on the documents submitted to the commission.
On August 3rd the Los Angeles Times reported that Cmdr. Smith declined to comment on the Sergeant George Hoopes’ case, citing personnel confidentiality. I suspect the better reason is that Smith now looks like either a fool or a liar for his other statements so they need to turn to someone else.
Now we are asked to believe that they made a deal on the Hoopes’ demotion because of problems with witnesses.
Should we believe that? First lets look at the source of this claim. The source is anonymous. Why anonymous? The source….requested anonymity because police personnel matters are confidential…“ according to the Times. This is LAPD at its best. The information the source provided is the stuff that is supposed to be confidential. So he/she wants confidentiality because he/she is doing something improper. Where does that put this person’s credibility?
The Times reported in that same article that Hoopes admitted a consensual relationship with Beck’s daughter and said it was not inappropriate and “admitted to making a mistake by entering into a personal relationship with a second female officer” which sort of sounds like that relationship may not have been appropriate.
The question is should we believe them about problems with witnesses? It seems that Hoopes has admitted the offense, so how necessary are these witnesses? It really looks like the department caved in because they felt the hearing would be embarrassing, or worse, for the daughter and the Chief. And since we have some earlier evidence about their attitude about lying and some earlier examples of fishy justifications, should we believe their current claim of witness problems or go with what our common sense tells us is true, they caved in to avoid embarrassment.
If the latter is true, and it certainly seems it is, then we have an organization subject to what seems a form of blackmail in its disciplinary processes. And if that is the situation it is because the Chief doesn’t do the right thing when it needs to be done.
In the situation with Mr. Hoopes, the right thing would have been to proceed with the hearing. If your daughter has put herself in an embarrassing position she will be embarrassed. And, if this embarrasses the Chief, maybe it will teach the next Chief a basic rule; when you run a public organization and your kids work for that organization, you make it clear to them that you will hold them to a higher standard than other employees because they are your kids. And then you apply that rule.
Not following the department rules for personal reasons is a form of corruption and that is how Beck has made his department appear.
One last issue to address. Maybe no one will be able to prove Beck ordered his personnel people to make a deal with Hoopes to avoid embarrassment. I doubt that he would give such an order in writing and none of the people he trusts enough to carry this out are going to rat him out. And even if he wasn’t involved, isn’t it clear that it was done to protect him and his daughter? And that embarrassing situation is his fault and no one else’s. He should have prevented his daughter from selling her horse to the department and he should have insisted that that Hoopes hearing proceed so that the message is clear: the department will do the right thing and the chips will fall where they fall.
John Brock is an attorney-at-law in Los Angeles.