Three years after he was fired for his role in the Rodney G. King beating, Officer Timothy E. Wind's ties to the Los Angeles Police Department were officially severed Tuesday when Chief Willie L. Williams countermanded a recommendation that he get his job back.
The ruling makes it impossible for Wind to become a Los Angeles police officer again unless a civil court judge overrules Williams. Wind's lawyer, Patrick J. Thistle, said he will take the case to court.
Wind, 34, was a rookie officer at the time of the King beating in March, 1991. Unlike other officers involved who were initially suspended without pay, Wind was not entitled to an internal administrative Board of Rights hearing before being fired because of his probationary status. But he was allowed to appeal the firing at a so-called liberty interest administrative hearing. In such hearings, it is up to the officer to show he is not guilty of misconduct.
After nearly four days of closed-door hearings that included testimony from several use-of-force experts, a police captain determined earlier this month that Wind deserved to get his job back. Patrol Capt. Robert Gale, according to sources, said the rookie officer was only following the orders of his superiors, but also recommended that Wind get a six-month suspension for improperly kicking King.
In his report to the chief, Gale said the department's internal charges--that Wind unnecessarily struck King with his baton and failed to accurately depict the details of King's arrest in a report--were unwarranted. Gale did agree with the accusation that Wind unnecessarily kicked King several times, but said, "I believe it was an act of desperation on his part" because of King's size and strength.
"It is my belief that Officer Wind is the one person least culpable for the March 3, 1991, incident," Gale concluded. "Officer Wind did what we expect all probationary officers to do in similar situations--back up your partner."
Williams had the final say, however, and upheld Wind's May, 1991, firing, even though he was vindicated of criminal charges in two cases and cleared of wrongdoing in King's civil lawsuit.
In a statement released late Tuesday, the LAPD said Williams reviewed Gale's recommendations June 28 and "directed that Timothy Wind be terminated from his employment with the Los Angeles Police Department effective May 8, 1991." An LAPD spokesman, Lt. John Dunkin, said the department and Williams would have no further comment.
Wind was unavailable for comment, but his lawyer said the news would be crushing to him.
Wind, Thistle said, "has suffered so much. He hasn't been able to work, he's had no income. Who is going to hire him?"
When told of Williams' decision, Thistle became angry and said the police chief's decision was politically motivated, and sends the wrong message to the rest of the Police Department.
"I think it is a repudiation of the department's own system, which calls for a fair and unbiased hearing officer to make judgments after listening personally to evidence, and making a recommendation," said Thistle, who works with the police union, the Police Protective League. "Why in hell do we have these hearings if (Williams) just wants to throw it in the trash can and make up his own subjective reasons for firing someone? It's ridiculous."
Wind was fired almost immediately after the March 3, 1991, King beating made national headlines. The LAPD conducted an informal investigation and fired Wind in May of that year, at the same time it suspended without pay fellow Officers Laurence M. Powell and Theodore J. Briseno and Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, the ranking officer at the scene.
Wind, who joined the force 10 months earlier, was alleged to have unnecessarily kicked King several times, struck him about 14 times with his baton and submitted a false arrest report on King after officers followed King on a high-speed chase and arrested him in a lot just off the Foothill Freeway.