LAUSD's Finest: Los Angeles School Police 

How an oblivious school board lets a tiny, scandal-ridden force endanger L.A. kids

Wednesday, Sep 2 2009

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Two extensive, secret 2007 audits — one internal and one by a consultant — obtained by the Weekly called for a radical remaking of the police force. It never happened. And now, Chief Manion has announced his retirement, less than a week after the Weekly demanded to know the status of more than 1,000 mislaid police firearms, some dating to the 1970s — another unsettling problem the Weekly discovered through a California Public Records Act request.

Manion, set to depart on December 31, is the third chief to have left the nation’s largest school police force in disarray, and to have placed 680,000 children in the hands of unaccountable cops. Its Internal Affairs Division sat on 16 investigations of police wrongdoing for so long that the officers can’t be punished, even though all were ultimately found guilty of misconduct. An I.A. investigation into Officer King’s creepy harassment of teenager Shapiro is overdue — incredibly, by more than two years. King wants out of prison and is appealing his sentence, arguing in part that terrified coed Nicole D. should have known better than to submit to his sexual assault. Former Chief Kerstein, forced out of his most recent chief’s job in Henderson, Nevada, has told some LAUSD cops he’d like to get his old spot back in L.A.

And the LAUSD Board of Education’s “Safety Committee” is so oblivious that it hasn’t had any of this on its agenda for action — ever.

  • Photo illustration by Sean Teegarden models: Skoti Collins & Charito Mertz

Welcome to LAUSD PD.

Today, it is hard to overstate the disaster-in-waiting that is the Los Angeles School Police Department. One of two secret audits, a 53-page confidential “special review” by LAUSD Inspector General Jerry Thornton, issued in August 2007 and obtained by the Weekly, found that Chief Manion’s command staff “has failed to hold subordinates accountable” at all levels. The department has a “significant problem” completing Internal Affairs probes of its cops before the statute of limitations runs out.

Manion’s leadership abilities are so lacking that his directives to underlings are “often” ignored, and school cops go unsupervised and have “very little contact with the sergeants.” The IG found that Manion and his brass seldom reviewed the “activity” logs, which detail the calls and issues all cops respond to during their workday, “leading to an attitude [among school cops] of ‘Why keep them?’ ”

A second confidential report, 115 pages long, written in October 2007 by Evergreen Solutions LLC, a draft of which was obtained by the Weekly, wrote vividly of Manion’s inability to set up basic record-keeping for crime reports, complaints against officers and other crucial data: “Data sheets are piled on desks and not yet entered. It appears that LASPD, at some point, made the management decision to no longer remain on top of data entry.” One result is that “accurate and timely data on incidents” — including crimes committed against schoolchildren and classroom teachers — are “lacking within LASPD.”

And the list goes on. As of last December, Manion had failed to confiscate real-looking, too easily misused “badges” handed out to TV stars and business leaders without a background check. A lieutenant with no formal detective training, Tim Anderson, long ran the department’s dysfunctional Internal Affairs unit — Manion promoted Anderson to deputy chief. Former chief Kerstein founded a strange police foundation, now run by Manion, that is utterly nontransparent and keeps a tight lid on its fundraising, spending — even its membership roster.

Yet Superintendent Ramon Cortines — who disbanded the unsettling, M16-toting school-district SWAT team just last year — refuses to discuss any aspect of his campus police. School board President Monica Garcia’s chief of staff, Luis Sanchez, says Garcia can’t publicly comment on the department, or on her board’s failure to clean house — citing an “ongoing personnel investigation.” Marlene Canter, board president during the Chief Kerstein era, also declined repeated requests for an interview.

James Ream, president of the Los Angeles School Police Officers Association, a union representing school police, blames the Board of Education and former Superintendent Roy Romer for hiring two successive chiefs in the wake of the Chief Mitchell porn scandal — Kerstein and Manion — who weren’t oriented toward protecting children and brought the worst of the bad old LAPD with them. Says Ream, “They brought the cancer.”

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