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Police Take Complaints to Council : Hawthorne Union Files Notice of 'No Confidence' in Chief

October 17, 1985|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

HAWTHORNE — Rank-and-file police officers took complaints about Chief Kenneth R. Stonebraker and Capt. David Barnes to the City Council on Tuesday, delivering a notice of "no confidence" in the two men.

The officers charged that the chief had eliminated good programs and damaged morale. They accused Barnes, patrol commander, of practicing management by "intimidation."

The council referred the eight-page letter of complaint to the city's grievance process, but all five council members made it clear, one by one, that they supported the chief.

"I publicly want to extend my support to the chief of police, who has done an outstanding job," said Councilman David M. York.

Pay Dispute

The complaints, brought to the council by the Hawthorne Police Officers' Assn., came 15 weeks after settlement of an 18-month dispute over pay, which, the union acknowledged, was "acrimonious."

The officers said that difficulties in the contract negotiations were unrelated to the complaints. Charles Goldstein, the lawyer who negotiated for the department, said he did not believe that claim.

At the same council meeting, the department released third-quarter statistics that showed a 4.5% decline in crime compared with the same quarter in 1984.

Mayor Guy Hocker, during his statement of support for Stonebraker, said the chief deserved part of the credit for the reduction.

Formal Grievance

After listening to council members express support, Stonebraker said, "I am happy that my bosses have faith in me." The chief said he was ready to answer any complaints filed in a formal grievance but he would not comment publicly.

Barnes, who was out of town, could not be reached for comment.

Goldstein praised Barnes as a "dedicated officer," terming the complaints against him "pettiness."

Union attorney Charles Goldwasser presented copies of the notice of no confidence to the council and urged it to take appropriate action. He refused to release copies to the public and declined to explain the details of the notice, but said the association was not seeking the removal of Stonebraker or Barnes.

The document was released later by city officials.

10 Reasons Cited

The notice cited 10 reasons for the vote of no-confidence, among them reduction of the canine program; elimination of the drunk-driving team; scheduling changes for the evening shift and the duty roster for sergeants; the "arrogant" attitude, language and deportment of Barnes; "surveillance" of officers' driving habits, and an incident in which Barnes showed up at the police station intoxicated.

None of the officers making the accusations were named in the no-confidence notice.

Department attorney Goldstein defended Barnes' general behavior. "Capt. Barnes' language is no different than the people he deals with," the attorney said.

He said that Barnes was not on duty when he appeared at the police station on Aug. 19 intoxicated but agreed to accept discipline anyway. The captain was docked a day's pay, the ranking official said.

A high-ranking police officer who asked not to be named explained the department leadership's reasoning behind some of the other actions cited in the notice.

Not Enough Work

The official said the canine program was reduced from three dogs to two because there was not enough work for all three. He said that a grant supporting the drunk-driving team ran out, that it was felt that the program was not popular among officers, and that officers assigned to it were needed more on the streets.

There were no complaints at the time of those program changes, he said.

Before scheduling changes, sergeants with seniority had the pick of shifts, which led to supervisors with the least experience being on duty during the worst times for crime and accidents, the official said. Under the new schedule, which was instituted by Barnes and Stonebraker, a number of sergeants now must work both weekend days.

The changes, said the official, were made "to get some whiskers on the shift."

Driving Habits

"Surveillance" of officers' driving habits involved the inspection of the "tacograph" of every officer after every shift. A tacograph is a device that provides a complete record of how fast a car has been driven and how long it sits idle. The official said the checks were needed to make sure that police officers were actively patrolling.

Mark Young, who as chief of security at Mattel Toys in Hawthorne works with police frequently, criticized the officers who brought the complaints.

Young, who is the son of Stonebraker's predecessor, Colman Young, said that he was "just disgusted" with the complaining officers, who he said were the beneficiaries of a series of pay raises.

"They never had it so good. Most of them moved out of the city. They have no loyalty. They are only out for what they can get," he said.

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