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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Assembly panel kills bill to disclose LAPD disciplinary records

Despite lobbying efforts by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an Assembly committee Tuesday killed a bill that would have cleared the way for the Los Angeles Police Department to make officers' disciplinary hearings and records open to the public.

The bill faced stiff opposition from many of the state's powerful police unions, which argued that the measure would compromise officer safety. LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, normally a Villaraigosa ally, pointedly chose not to take a position on the bill and Tuesday expressed concerns about it.

Three Democrats on the seven-member Public Safety Committee refused to cast a vote. Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) voted for the measure, and Assemblymen Greg Aghazarian (R-Stockton), Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) and Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) opposed it.

The bill's author, state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), lashed out against the members who abstained. They were Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), the committee's chairman, and Assemblymen Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge).

"I was really taken aback by the [bill's] death by silence," Romero said. "The fear, you could feel it -- the fear of what will happen if you look out for the public's interests when they may differ from the interests of the law enforcement lobby."

Tim Sands, president of the Police Protective League, which represents 9,300 LAPD rank-and-file officers, said he was pleased that "this bad piece of legislation was stopped." He reiterated the union's stance that the department's discipline system allows sufficient civilian oversight. The league launched a radio campaign that was highly critical of the proposed law, and Sands, in a recent interview, accused Romero of throwing a "legislative temper tantrum." [Mark Godsey]

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