Los Angeles city leaders have taken the first step toward a major overhaul of the police department’s disciplinary process, a move long sought by the union that represents rank-and-file officers, the Los Angeles Times reports. City Council President Herb Wesson unveiled plans for a May ballot measure that would allow the police department’s Board of Rights panels, which review serious misconduct cases, to be made up entirely of civilians. The three-member boards are currently made up of two officers, both at the rank of captain or above, and one civilian. Under Wesson’s proposal, officers facing a disciplinary hearing would have the option of asking for their cases to be heard by a civilian-only panel.
Thee changes, if approved by voters, would hand a major victory to the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents 9,800 officers and has been at odds with Police Chief Charlie Beck over discipline. The union filed a federal lawsuit against the city in May, calling for more civilian representation in the disciplinary system and accusing Beck of having a “corrupting influence” over misconduct cases. Beck has publicly questioned the union’s motives, arguing that civilians are known to be more lenient toward police officers accused of misconduct. A Board of Rights has the power to administer major penalties, including lengthy suspensions and terminations.