The highest-ranking police officer present during the notorious Dalton Street drug raid faces possible suspension from the force after an LAPD board found him guilty of misconduct--even though he was acquitted of criminal charges in the case earlier this year, police officials said Friday.
The Police Department's Board of Rights, a three-member administrative panel, recommended that Sgt. Charles E. Spicer be suspended for 44 days without pay after finding that he failed to adequately supervise the 80 officers who participated in the 1988 raid. The ruling was made Thursday.
Spicer's attorney, Michael Stone, said Friday that he plans to appeal for a lighter sentence. As in all such judgments, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates must confirm or reduce the penalty before an offending officer is suspended.
"The question is not whether or not discipline should have been administered, but the degree of it," Stone said.
Stone added that he considered the sentence to be "rather harsh."
In the raid on Aug. 1, 1988, police ransacked four apartments at 39th Street and Dalton Avenue during what was portrayed as a search for drugs. Only small amounts of cocaine and marijuana were found, but the apartments were left in shambles.
Spicer and two other officers--Capt. Thomas Elfmont and Officer Todd B. Parrick--were cleared of misdemeanor vandalism charges in June after a seven-week trial. Jurors said they believed police trashed the apartments but that prosecutors failed to establish the role of the defendants.
Elfmont, who organized the raid but did not participate, chose not to contest his 15-day suspension. Spicer requested the Board of Rights hearing and entered a plea of not guilty to six counts brought against him.
The board on Thursday found Spicer guilty of three counts and cleared him of the remaining allegations. In addition to improper supervision of personnel during the raid, the board found that he failed to take appropriate action to stop the officers' misconduct. They also found that he failed to properly review arrest reports.
Spicer, a 17-year LAPD veteran, was cleared of charges that he falsified a log report and lied to investigating detectives.
Stone, Spicer's attorney, said he believed the crisis dogging the LAPD in the wake of the Rodney G. King beating and the damning Christopher Commission report contributed to his client's sentence.
He conceded, however, that the Dalton raid was extremely damaging to the LAPD's image. By law, board members are permitted to take such repercussions into consideration in handing down their recommendations.
The Dalton case, which has already cost Los Angeles $3.4 million in civil settlements, is not over. Another suit naming 77 police officers is scheduled to be heard in federal court next month.