The dispute continues over the Los Angeles Police Commission's action placing Chief Daryl Gates on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of investigations in the Rodney King case. Those of us familiar with public-employment law are concerned about the threats to our legal and legislative system that are the by-product of these actions.
Administrative leave with pay pending further investigation is commonplace in California. In many cases, public employers prefer to investigate serious charges without either prejudging the employee or being forced to make a case in the absence of a thorough investigation. Indeed, Chief Gates often imposes paid leave for employees of his department without a hearing. This is expressly authorized by the Police Department manual. Leave with pay is particularly appropriate, and most commonly used, where the accused is a manager whose presence might make the investigation less productive and more time-consuming. Subordinate employees are neither free, nor willing to cooperate in an investigation of their "boss" where he retains full control over them.
More important, a responsible manager understands that he cannot preside effectively when his day-to-day decisions will be influenced by two often divergent considerations: Which course is best for the department, and which course is best for the manager's personal defense?
Equally disturbing as Gates' hypocritical cries of "unfairness" is the City Council's cooperation in an attack on our citizen commission form of government. The civil-service system was intended to remove politics from assessments of performance. Under the City Charter, the Police Commission initiates discipline, which the Civil Service Commission then reviews. The City Council now chooses to jimmy the system, to do indirectly what it cannot do directly. Lacking the power to reverse commission decisions, the council encourages litigation and then settles immediately in the favored employee's behalf. The irony could not be more complete--politics is now the order of the day and our commission system is undone.
The City Council and Chief Gates are now united in sweetheart litigation, as the Police Commission strives to reestablish its rightful place. Legal considerations not withstanding, Mayor Tom Bradley apparently has declined to pursue the matter in court in order to avoid further divisiveness in the city. In retrospect, one wishes that Chief Gates and the City Council had exercised similar good judgment by placing the city's interests above their own.