BELL GARDENS — A police officer who was fired last summer will be allowed to return to work, a Superior Court judge ruled last week.
Judge Jerome K. Fields said there was insufficient evidence to support the city's dismissal of Officer Richard R. Rice, who had ordered a report on a city councilman who was suspected of soliciting a prostitute. Fields also said it appeared that the city had tried to cover up the incident.
On March 24, Rice ordered a police report after an officer said he spotted veteran Councilman Roger McComas picking up an alleged prostitute at 1 a.m. at the Durango Bar on Eastern Avenue. McComas has denied the allegation. The incident was referred to the district attorney's office, but the case was dropped because prosecutors were unable to corroborate statements from the alleged prostitute.
Police officials criticized Rice's handling of the matter, and an internal investigation concluded that Rice lied about a conversation he had with another officer about the incident. Rice was fired in June.
Fields said he did not understand why the city ordered an investigation of Rice and not of McComas.
Rice, 36, will be allowed to return to work with full back pay and benefits, said Michael Hannon, Rice's attorney.