Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2014
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck fired a veteran police detective Wednesday after a disciplinary panel found he made racially charged comments about a black civil rights attorney and a 1997 shooting in which the detective killed a black officer.
The decision to fire Det. Frank Lyga was seen as a major test for Beck, who has been accused of being inconsistent in handling officer discipline and previously came under fire for his decision not to terminate a well-connected officer caught on tape uttering a racial slur.
A three-person department board of rights panel recommended that the 28-year veteran be fired for his controversial remarks made last November at a training session. The panel said his comments “caused irreparable damage to the department’s image and gave fodder to our detractors who believe that the LAPD harbors racist officers.”
In his comments, Lyga called prominent black civil rights attorney Carl Douglas an “ewok”–a short, furry creature from “Star Wars” movies–said a female LAPD captain had been “swapped around a bunch of times” and described a lieutenant as a “moron.”
He also discussed shooting fellow officer Kevin Gaines, an incident that sparked racial tensions within the LAPD because Lyga is white and the slain officer was black. Lyga was working an undercover narcotics operation when he became involved in a traffic dispute with Gaines, according to police accounts. Neither man apparently knew the other was a police officer.
At the end of the lecture, Lyga recalled a confrontation with Douglas, the attorney representing Gaines’ family, who asked if Lyga had any regrets about the shooting.
“I said, ‘No, I regret he was alone in the truck at the time,'” Lyga said. “I could have killed a whole truckload of them and I would have been happy doing it.”
Lyga admitted some of his remarks were inappropriate, and he apologized. His attorney said Lyga explained that he should have said he would have shot anybody who was trying to kill him. The detective denied his remarks were racist.
But the panel disagreed, finding that many of his comments had a “racial tone.”
“You stated in your testimony that you have been fighting the negative image of being a racist cop killer, but then you, intentionally or not, confirmed this image during this speech,” the panel concluded, according to a copy of the transcript from last week’s board of rights meeting.