Ron Kaye: Tough times for local police

February 06, 2011|By Ron Kaye

Two young women approach Glendale police sergeant and city spokesman Tom Lorenz as he stood in front of the police station Friday. They ask if he knows how they can find out the names of the six officers put on paid administrative leave over charges of misconduct.

She got a traffic ticket, one woman says, and wondered if it was written by one of those officers, and whether he would come to court if she fought it.

"I can't tell you their names," Lorenz says. "The officers have a Bill of Rights that protects their identities while they're under investigation."


It has been a busy couple of days for Lorenz and Police Chief Ron De Pompa, with the Los Angeles Times quoting anonymous sources about misconduct involving six officers: three officers going to party in Las Vegas in a police car, a cop accused of an off-duty road-rage incident, another who got involved with a suspect's wife. The incident involving the sixth officer was not disclosed.

They are in their offices in casual clothes. They are scheduled to work 80 hours over nine days, so it's their day off, a day they often spend at work.

De Pompa is embarrassed by the "peak of separate and distinct incidents" of six misconduct cases, all dropping at once, incidents that could tarnish the department's reputation and raise questions about his 255 officers and whether his "zero tolerance" policy is effective.

"We will not tolerate going down this path while I'm chief," he says. "We expect our officers to abide by the three rules of this department unequivocally."

His rules are clear enough:

"Never break the law to enforce the law."

"Honor the public trust — do the right thing for the right reason."

"Practice respectful policing — every contact counts."

Cops the world over are a special breed, wilder by nature than most of us, action-oriented men and women who put their lives on the line to uphold law and order. Yet, most of their days are spent cruising in cars, just being a presence, waiting for a 911 call that could put them in harm's way.

It can be boring. It can be dangerous. It can stress them out and strain their marriages. They always live in a fishbowl, subject to scrutiny and rules of conduct stricter than anyone else in society, yet authorized to carry a gun and shoot to kill.

Sometimes they crack. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they cross the line entirely. Costly lawsuits and misconduct, even corruption, are inevitable.

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