Among those present at the meetings, said Fetters, were current Deputy Chiefs Glenn Levant and Bernard Parks and former Assistant Chief Jesse Brewer, all of whom filed declarations last week saying that Vernon had injected his religious views into Police Department business.
Levant, Parks and Assistant Chief David Dotson, who last week filed a declaration claiming Vernon had favored fundamentalist Christian officers for promotion, are among the contenders to become the next chief of police. Vernon, also a candidate, has asserted the accusations against him are designed to hurt his chances. But Skip Miller, the city's attorney, said Vernon's contention was "bogus," and that Dotson, Levant and Parks came forth with their declarations last week in response to court-imposed deadlines.
Gates Reprimands Aide for Using LAPD Files for Political Research
February 16, 1989|DAVID FREED and WILLIAM OVEREND, Times Staff Writers
Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates said Wednesday that he has reprimanded his second-in-command, Assistant Chief Robert L. Vernon, for using a Police Department computer to research the backround of a political candidate in Pasadena.
Vernon, Gates said, intended to give to his Pasadena neighbors a computerized printout of newspaper stories and other publicly available documents relating to Michael Zinzun, a former Black Panther who is running for Pasadena's Board of City Directors.
At Vernon's request, the Police Department's Anti-Terrorist Division last week printed out 50 documents--156 pages in all--and gave them to Vernon. However, LAPD officials alerted Gates, who intervened before Vernon could pass on the data, according to the chief.
'Judgment Was Poor'
"While his motives were pure, his judgment was poor," Gates said of Vernon, a 34-year department veteran who has been considered a leading candidate to eventually become chief.
The rebuke comes at a time when Gates' interest in politics has stirred speculation on who might succeed him as chief, and department sources said the Zinzun matter would not help Vernon's chances.
Gates said he intends to ask that Vernon, 55, repay the Police Department for having printed out the articles on Zinzun. The bill is expected to be more than $300.
Zinzun played a central role in the dismantling of the LAPD's Public Disorder Intelligence Division (PDID), the forerunner of the Anti-Terrorist Division. The PDID came under fire for illegally spying on lawful citizens, and Zinzun was a plaintiff in a civil action against the unit.
On Wednesday, Zinzun condemned Vernon's action as "obvious misuse of taxpayer funds."
Gates said he intends to discuss the matter with the Los Angeles Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the department.
"The system worked in this case," Gates said. "I verbally reprimanded Bob (Vernon) and we'll look at whether we'll formalize that. We have returned the stuff that was printed out to the files."
Gates said he did not know why Vernon's neighbors wanted the information on Zinzun.
Vernon did not respond Wednesday to telephone messages left by The Times.
A devout Christian and a lay minister in a fundamentalist church, Vernon in 1987 was accused by some in the Police Department of giving promotional preference to fellow Christians. He strongly denied those allegations.
.....Zinzun's Los Angeles-based organization, the Coalition Against Police Abuse, was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit alleged that the PDID unit had spied illegally and kept files on hundreds of citizens. Some of those files had been removed by a PDID detective who was channeling the data to an ultra-right-wing organization.
In 1983, the city settled the ACLU lawsuit for $1.8 million and PDID was disbanded. In its place, the 45-member Anti-Terrorist Division was formed. Strict guidelines limiting access to the division's files were established at that time.
The unit, according to its desciption in the department manual, is responsible for collecting and analyzing information on "individuals and organizations which plan, perform, threaten, or attempt unlawful acts which can reasonably be expected to result in death, serious bodily injury, significant disruption to the public order, or significant property damage. . . . "
On Wednesday, Paul Hoffman, an ACLU attorney who helped prepare those guidelines, called Vernon's use of department resources for personal reasons an "outrageous" violation of accceptable police conduct.
"One of the concerns I have is if he would so something that stupid just for his neighbors, what kind of information would he dig up for somebody with some real political clout," Hoffman said.