It’s not exactly Watergate, but Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is in deep doo after failing to heed one of the key lessons from that ignominious period in American history: “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”
In President Nixon’s case, it was also the crime. But in Beck’s case, people are whispering about his job being in jeopardy over a “misstatement” he made about his involvement in the department’s purchase of a horse from his daughter, Brandi (Scimone) Pearson, who is also a cop. It comes on the heels of allegations that he intervened in an internal investigation of a sergeant for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, Officer Pearson.
Beck denied improper behavior in both.
The in-house romance came first. The department tried to demote Sergeant George Hoopes after knowledge of his relationship with Pearson became known. Hoopes appealed the decision to an internal disciplinary board last year and indicated he would go public with his case if it weren’t dropped. The department dropped the action on the eve of the hearing.
Last week, LAPD Captain Peter Whittingham wrote a letter to the Police Commission protesting Chief Beck’s “selective, situational and convenient enforcement of the rules.” The letter, which he also sent to media outlets, said of Beck, “You must ask him to explain why he terminated a Board of Rights (that was in progress), and agreed to a settlement that overturned the downgrade of a Sergeant II who was charged with inappropriate sexual conduct. This was no ordinary case.”
Whittingham has filed a lawsuit against the department claiming he was unfairly treated for bucking the chief in disciplinary cases.
The captain didn’t name names, but blogger Jasmyn Cannick did last week. She also said on her blog that Hoopes had compromising pictures of Pearson and threatened to make them public.
While that was percolating in the press, news surfaced that a private donor had written a $6,000 check to the Police Foundation for purchase of a horse by the department. The horse belonged to Beck’s daughter, Brandi, but when the chief was pressed about the matter earlier this week he denied any involvement.
Then the Police Commission released the March memo (pdf) approving the purchase with Beck’s signature at the bottom. The next day Beck said he had been “mistaken” in denying any participation, but considered his role as being a perfunctory, after-the-fact acknowledgment of a decision made by others.
Beck is currently being considered by the commission for another five-year term as chief. A decision could come as early as next week.