A Los Angeles police sergeant participated in two acts of lewd conduct with a male prostitute and engaged in improper contacts with prostitutes on numerous occasions--all while on duty, a Board of Rights panel determined Friday.
The three-member hearing board found Sgt. Emmanuel Valencia, 37, guilty of three charges of lewd conduct and recommended his suspension without pay for six months--the Police Department's harshest penalty short of firing.
Valencia, a 14-year veteran of the department assigned to the Central Traffic Division, was found not guilty on eight other charges of lewd behavior. The hearing lasted two days, and the three-member panel reached its decision after deliberations that went past midnight Thursday.
Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has five days to accept or lessen the sentence recommended by the board, but he cannot increase the penalty.
During the hearing, officials called on several admitted prostitutes, who alleged that at Valencia's request they had rubbed the sergeant's genitals while he was on duty and in uniform, said Deputy Chief William Rathburn, a member of the Board of Rights. They also introduced tape recordings made by a prostitute.
Valencia was found guilty of participating "in an act of lewd (conduct), while on duty and in uniform, with Jose Jimenez" on March 16 and again on May 21. On the second occasion he was not in uniform.
The third count was for neglecting "on numerous occasions, while on duty, your primary duty assignment by engaging in improper contacts with streetwalking prostitutes."
The Department of Internal Affairs charged in its suspension note that Valencia had engaged in such activities between January and May, 1987, in the vicinity of the 500 block of South Gladys Avenue, a downtown trucking area frequented by transvestite prostitutes.
Internal Affairs investigators had presented to the hearing board tape recordings made by prostitute Jimenez, who carried a hidden microphone during an encounter with Valencia while the sergeant was on duty.
"Jimenez was by far the most credible witness," Rathburn said, "and we had additional evidence to corroborate his statements."
Neither Valencia nor his attorney could be reached for comment Friday.
A lewd act is defined by police as "some sort of public sex act. It can be done alone, or with another person of the same or the opposite sex," LAPD spokesman Cmdr. William Booth said.
According to Booth, it was not the first time that an LAPD officer had been suspended for performing sex with a prostitute while on duty.
"In the history of the department, I'd be hard pressed to find a violation that has not been committed. Sex charges, neglected duty charges, lewd conduct charges--we've had them all."