Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, in a rare decision to reduce a penalty recommended by a departmental tribunal, has ordered that a 26-year-old officer be suspended for six months--rather than fired--for lying about his partner's shooting of a Cuban immigrant last year.
A Los Angeles Police Department Board of Rights, made up of three captains, recommended this week that Officer Daniel Perez be terminated for giving internal investigators "false and misleading statements" after the death of Miguel Angel Herrera in South-Central Los Angeles.
But Gates, without elaborating publicly, decided that "a more equitable penalty" would be a six-month suspension without pay, according to Cmdr. William Booth, the chief's spokesman.
"He rarely does this," Booth said Thursday of Gates' decision. "He did deliberate carefully, and he also congratulated each member of the Board of Rights for their insight and wisdom and the justice of their recommendation."
Under the City Charter, the chief of police can uphold a Board of Right's recommended penalties or reduce them. He is not allowed to impose disciplinary measures more stringent than those recommended by board members.
Department administrators said they could not recall any recent case in which Gates lessened board-recommended sanctions against a patrol officer.
The incident for which Perez was disciplined occurred Oct. 24, 1984, when the 30-year-old Herrera was shot once in the back by Officer Rodney W. Kelley. Kelley, 25, claimed that he fired in self-defense after Herrera gained control of the officer's baton during an altercation near Kenwood Avenue and 30th Street. Perez supported much of his partner's version of the incident.
However, other witnesses said Kelley and Perez, both four-year veterans of the department, beat Herrera without apparent cause with a baton and a metal flashlight and that Kelley gunned him down from behind as Herrera tried to flee.
Kelley is scheduled to testify at his own Board of Rights hearing Nov. 6.
Perez was suspended from the department Sept. 4 pending the board's decision. He will be allowed to return to duty in early March.
He could not be reached for comment Thursday.