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Curbs Urged on Off-Duty Police Jobs

The Inglewood schools security chief seeks to bar officers from working as rapper Snoop Dogg's guards after recent incidents.

August 26, 2003|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

The interim police chief of Inglewood schools has vowed to prohibit officers from working off-duty security jobs for rapper Snoop Dogg, and is seeking to fire several reserve officers who have moonlighted as bodyguards for the music star.

An estimated 10 full-time and reserve Inglewood school police officers have guarded Snoop Dogg, a convicted felon whose real name is Calvin Broadus. Several were with him in April when gunmen fired on his motorcade, wounding one reserve school officer. In June, two Inglewood school officers were in his entourage when Los Angeles and federal police confiscated a cache of weapons from its vehicles.

"There are jobs, obviously, that a police officer shouldn't take. For example, as an armed officer guarding a convicted felon," said Inglewood Unified School District interim Police Chief Wesley Mitchell. "We are trying to ensure this is a very credible police department."

Snoop Dogg is a former member of the Crips street gang and served a brief jail sentence after being convicted of cocaine possession in 1990. The rap artist, who emerged in the early 1990s with such hit albums as "Doggystyle," could not be reached for comment.

As part of what he said was his effort to reform the department, Mitchell sent termination letters last week to eight reserve officers because some have not received adequate background checks required by the state and others have not reported to work for several months. Of those eight, four were involved in the Snoop Dogg-related incidents in April or June.

In addition, Mitchell said, he has requested background checks on five full-time officers. Of those, at least one was present during the April 10 shooting.

Craig Byrnes, an attorney representing several of those officers, said the department is retaliating against them for their off-duty work as security guards.

"A lot of these officers have security businesses on the side. That is one of the reasons they become reserve officers, because it allows them to carry a gun," Byrnes said. "It allows them to make money on the side, while also [protecting] the community."

Last year, a previous department chief forbade the reserve officers to carry firearms.

The Inglewood school Police Department employs about 20 reserve and 12 full-time school police officers. The reserve officers are part-time employees, who are issued badges and identification cards and earn about $13.50 an hour, but they can earn hundreds of dollars a day as bodyguards for celebrities, police officials say.

Reserve and regular officers must meet requirements established by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, said Russ Kindermann, a senior consultant for the commission. Those requirements include a criminal, physical and mental background check to establish good moral character, he said.

Kindermann notified the Inglewood Unified School Police Department in June that background checks on at least 17 officers were not in compliance with state standards.

Law enforcement officials across Los Angeles County have been struggling with how to limit the off-duty bodyguard work of their officers.

The California Department of Corrections launched an investigation into off-duty work of its employees in the Los Angeles area after the June weapons seizure involving Snoop Dogg's bodyguards. Three state parole agents and two Inglewood school officers were guarding the rapper at the time.

In the Inglewood school Police Department, Mitchell is drafting a policy that would ban officers from working while off-duty for anyone who is a felon. Mitchell, who retired from the 309-officer Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department last year and has taken temporary leadership of Inglewood school police, said the moonlighting has embarrassed Inglewood schools.

"The school district should not be in the newspaper because of Snoop Dogg, but because of high test scores," he said. "What police department wants to have themselves affiliated with rap stars?"

Inglewood schools interim Supt. Ruben Zacarias, the former L.A. Unified superintendent, said he is confident that the school board will uphold Mitchell's new policy and the officers' dismissals as being in the best interest of the 18,000-student district.

"These officers are entrusted with the safety and welfare of our children and employees, and we need to make sure they are properly trained and have proper background checks," he said. "People have a right to have off-duty jobs, but we have to make sure that whatever those off-duty jobs are, they don't reflect [poorly] on Inglewood school police."

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