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Choice of Consultant to Probe Feud Among Irwindale Police Adds to Unrest

May 18, 1986|MARK ARAX | Times Staff Writer

A city with few citizens and many industries, Irwindale is more noted for its crimes against property than for its crimes against people. It has one of the highest-paid police forces in the county, according to City Manager Martin, with officers earning upwards of $30,000 a year.

The feud within the Police Department began about 10 years ago as a personality dispute between two officers and has escalated to the point where the entire force in this eastern San Gabriel Valley city of 1,000 stands divided and distrustful, officers said.

Quarreling officers say they have refused to respond to each other's calls for automatic backup. One former dispatcher has taken an extended leave of absence after her complaints of officer misconduct resulted in three years of repeated death threats and intimidation, records show. She was awarded temporary disability benefits by the state's Workmen's Compensation Appeals Board, which ruled that she suffered severe emotional injuries at the hands of her co-workers.

Officers on the largely Latino "B Team" charge that Miranda and Lt. Charles Crawford, who is second in command, have responded to their complaints of officer misconduct and assaults on Latino prisoners by overseeing shoddy internal investigations. They charge that Martin has approved questionable disability retirement claims to get rid of problem officers.

The department's investigation of at least three allegations of officer assaults on Latino prisoners since 1975 has become the focus of an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been interviewing Irwindale policemen.

Private Salvage Business

Councilmen Tapia and Breceda said they were particularly disturbed by the charge that Lt. Crawford spends considerable portions of his work day operating his private auto parts salvage business. They said the problems appeared to stem from an indifference on the part of Chief Miranda.

"He's too nice a guy for a position like that. He's not strict enough," Tapia said.

Miranda, chief of police since 1978, said he has confidence in Hermosillo's ability to conduct an impartial review. He said he has issued a gag order on his officers until Hermosillo's inquiry and the department's investigation are completed.

Miranda dismissed a official Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department description of the Irwindale department as the "least professional" police agency in the county.

"We're responsible and the guys are professional," he said. "He didn't come out here and talk to the community we serve. We've been given a bad jacket. We don't deserve it.'

'I didn't say we're an objective outside agency. We're using public relations and investigative tools . . . to do true crisis management, true crisis public relations.--Xavier Hermosillo

public relations agent

'I think it's now the responsibility of the council to investigate.'

--Councilman Robert Diaz

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