A perfunctory hearing Thursday by a Los Angeles Police Department Board of Rights brought Officer Laurence M. Powell a step closer to dismissal from the force because of his felony conviction in the Rodney G. King civil rights case.
After reviewing federal court records documenting Powell's conviction in April of violating King's civil rights, the three-member Police Department panel voted to recommend to Chief Willie L. Williams that Powell be fired.
Neither the Board of Rights nor Williams has any discretion in the matter, according to police officials who explained that state law prohibits convicted felons from serving as police officers.
"It's cut and dry," said Art Holmes, LAPD public information officer. "He can't hold the position of a Los Angeles police officer after he was convicted of a felony--period."
Powell and LAPD Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, who also was convicted in the case, are scheduled to enter federal prison Monday to begin a 30-month sentence.
Powell did not attend the board of rights hearing. His attorney, Michael P. Stone, made an unsuccessful plea to the panel to put off its decision pending the outcome of Powell's appeal of his conviction.
Stone said Powell did not attend the hearing because "he's more concerned with what's going to happen in the next 30 months. That's why he didn't appear. There was nothing he could do."
Stone told reporters that Powell is terrified of what might happen to him in prison.
"He's terrified of things we would all be terrified of," he said. "And the great unknown."
Powell, Koon and Officers Timothy E. Wind and Theodore J. Briseno were tried and found not guilty last year of unlawfully beating King in a case marked by a citizen's videotape recording the incident. The verdicts in Simi Valley touched off the 1992 riots.
The four officers were retried in federal court this year on charges of violating King's civil rights. Wind and Briseno were again acquitted.
Wind, a probationary officer at the time of the beating, was fired from the force. Briseno is fighting dismissal; his Board of Rights hearing has been continued until December. A Board of Rights hearing on Koon's dismissal will not be held until after the sergeant enters prison.