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Judge to eye Vegas joyride case

Police Chief backs original firing of three officers alleged to have driven to Las Vegas while on the job.

January 25, 2012|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has agreed to review the firing of two Glendale police officers and disciplinary actions taken against a third after they took a department-issued car on a joyride to Las Vegas.

In separate legal filings earlier this month, the city and an attorney representing the trio asked the court to review a Civil Service Commission decision to fire Michael Ullerich and Fernando Salmeron but not Officer Patrick Hamblin, who escaped with a demotion and 90-day suspension. Among other things, the city argues the commission was too lenient, while the officers charge the commission was too harsh.

Hamblin told an internal affairs investigator that he had “made a stupid mistake” in organizing and participating in the incident, court records show.

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The officers are asking a judge to vacate the commission’s Oct. 12 decisions, which they argue were “disproportionately harsh and excessive,” according to court documents. They also contend that the commission’s decision “is an abuse of discretion” and “exceeds the bounds of reason.”

Calls to the officers’ attorney were not returned Wednesday.

The Police Department initially fired all three of the officers for misconduct after investigators looked into the joyriding incident, but the Civil Service Commission later reinstated Hamblin as a police officer, although he was slapped with a 90-day work suspension and a demotion that cut his pay.

The city is contesting the commission’s decision to allow the officers to appeal their termination, to permit certain testimony, and to reinstate Hamblin after he admitted involvement in the incident, according to court documents.

Hamblin was fired “for conspiring with fellow officers to blatantly abuse the public’s trust by going to Las Vegas while getting paid,” the city argued in its court filing.

In a statement Wednesday, Police Chief Ron DePompa said his original determination in the matter “has not wavered.”

“I do not tolerate misconduct in the Glendale Police Department,” he said. “I value the trust that is given to me by this community to do the right thing for the right reasons. Our response to their [legal filing] speaks to our determination to uphold the professionalism and ethical values of this organization.”

The trio allegedly drove a sergeant’s department-issued car to Las Vegas Dec. 27, 2010, as a prank while they were supposed to be working 10-hour shifts.

Once they arrived in Vegas, the officers took photographs of themselves in front of the car and the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, according to court documents.

During the trip, a Nevada State trooper stopped the officers twice for speeding — all while they were being called by department officials to determine their whereabouts.

The officers alleged that their rights, under the Public Safety Officers Bill of Rights, were violated when they were initially interviewed without the presence of an attorney about the incident.

But the city argued in court documents that the interviewing sergeant was only asking where the officers had been all day because they were supposed to be working.
 
 

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