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L.A. Rejects 2 Officers' Claims Against Chief

Police: Action sets stage for $20-million slander lawsuit against Williams and city, attorney says.

October 15, 1996|JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The city of Los Angeles has denied claims by two LAPD officers against Police Chief Willie L. Williams, prompting the lawyer for the two officers to move forward with a $20-million lawsuit against their boss and the city.

The lawyer, Matthew B.F. Biren, said Monday that in light of the city's refusal to grant the claims, he expects to file a lawsuit within a few weeks.

"The city is forcing them into litigation to try to resolve their claims," Biren said. "We intend to move ahead with this."

The unusual case pits two veteran LAPD detectives, Andrew Teague and Charles Markel, against their chief because of comments that Williams made during a 1995 news conference. At that event, the chief accused Teague and Markel of lying in court and falsifying police documents, and announced that they had been suspended.

That news conference occurred at the height of the O. J. Simpson murder trial, so the chief's charges were aired across the nation. As a result, Biren said, both detectives suffered humiliation.

But a police disciplinary panel later cleared Teague and Markel of the allegations, and they now are seeking damages from Williams. In a claim filed this summer, they accused the chief of slander for alleging that they violated the law and invasion of privacy for disclosing personnel records. Williams, who briefly filed a claim of his own against the city alleging improper disclosure of his personnel records, has steadfastly declined to comment on the case.

The two detectives, who still work with the LAPD, say they have never received an apology from the chief. A representative of the LAPD said Monday that Williams was unavailable.

Still, the case's impact already is being felt in Williams' relations with rank-and-file officers. Many officers grumble about what they see as a violation of their colleagues' privacy and as an example of the chief selling out his officers for political points. Aides to Williams dispute those contentions, but the chief has not addressed them.

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