By Hal Collier
“Any officer who spent time in the streets got complaints, fact of life.”–Hal Collier
The following stories are true and because of the confidential nature of personnel complaints I will not use last names. Some cops will recognize themselves and others will remember the described incidents. Non-cops will think some of these complaints are ridiculous and a waste of the tax-payers money.
First, the legend. A female, with questionable mental capacity, accused an LAPD officer of stealing her ovaries. That’s right—the department took the complaint but the investigation stalled when the female refused have surgery to see if her ovaries were missing.
When I graduated from the police academy I was sure that I wouldn’t get any complaints. That lasted two weeks. I was accused of something I insisted I didn’t do. Funny, the department didn’t take my word as proof. After a lengthily investigation, the complaint returned, “not sustained.”
LAPD complaints had four results, Sustained= Guilty; Not Sustained= we can’t prove it either way; Exonerated= not guilty; and Unfounded= which meant it was a false complaint.
Funny thing about complaints that return ‘Not Sustained’. The department had the theory that where there’s smoke there’s fire, which translated into ‘Not Sustained’ which meant you were probably guilty they just couldn’t prove it. Too many ‘not sustained’ complaints showed a pattern of misconduct.
Any officer who spent time in the streets got complaints, fact of life. You arrest some dirt bag and send him to prison for the next three to five years, he’s not going to be your BFF. He’s going to make an allegation of some sort. Young officers who have the ambition to promote up through the ranks, leave the streets as soon as possible. No complaints, no speed bumps on the road to the top. Some of those on the top were the same ones who decided policy or the discipline you if you got caught calling a non-tax paying citizen an anal orifice.
Not all our brass fell into that category. I once saw a video tape of a Deputy Chief and Commander taking care of business at the rear of Sears during the riots. The Deputy Chief was butt stroking looters with a shotgun as the commander was clearing the parking lot with his revolver.
I was also fortunate to have good leaders who gave me minimum punishment when I screwed up.
Some of the more ridiculous complaints were, “My neighbor, a cop for your department, doesn’t mow his lawn every week.” Another said the cop was ugly, I knew him it was true but wasn’t misconduct. Many had to do with a cop dating a female, having sex, then not calling her back. That’s just the way some men are, jerks but not misconduct.
Occasionally the female would claim rape. A whole new set of headaches. The District Attorney wouldn’t file charges against the officer, but by the time the department was through with the officer, he wished he had gone to jail.
Some of the minor offenses included fail to appear in court and fail to qualify on the gun range. Each of these sustained complaints could result in one to two days off without pay. How many days off you got depended on repeat offenses.
In my early days with the LAPD, supervisors were allowed to determine if a citizen’s complaint was valid. The lady who called and said that when she opened her bathroom medicine cabinet this officer was inside looking at her. She was told to take her medication. No complaint, no lengthy investigation.
Later, when a new chief was appointed by the political powers in Los Angeles, he dictated that all complaints would be taken, no matter how frivolous. They would all be investigated, no exceptions. To make sure you documented all complaints, the department called in fictitious complaints. The next chapter will include some of the complaints I took and some I investigated.