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Controversial chief in Maywood steps down

February 13, 2008|Ari B. Bloomekatz | Times Staff Writer

A man who nearly two weeks ago was tapped to become the city of Maywood's interim police chief -- despite having been convicted of theft and resigning from the Los Angeles Police Department -- has stepped down from the position at the request of the city's mayor.

On Tuesday night, Maywood city leaders voted 5 to 0 to appoint Maywood Cmdr. Frank Hauptmann as their interim chief while a search for a permanent replacement was conducted.

Unlike Al Hutchings, whose selection for the job on Feb. 1 prompted an immediate outcry from residents and officers, Hauptmann is generally supported by the rank and file and has an unblemished record, according to officials with the state attorney general's office.

"I think I made it very clear in the beginning . . . my goal was to help reform the department," Hauptmann said after the vote. He said he would bring a new policy manual to the department and institute a new recruiting process, among other improvements.

Mayor Felipe Aguirre, who helped orchestrate Hutchings' appointment as interim chief, withdrew his support after meetings between the city and the state attorney general's office, which has been investigating allegations of wrongdoing by officers in the troubled police department. The district attorney also is investigating, authorities said.

Maywood City Atty. Francisco Leal said authorities investigating the department had expressed concerns about Hutchings in the days before the council's decision.

He said the Los Angeles County district attorney's office had requested several files they deemed "sensitive" and did not want to be accessible to Hutchings, including his own.

Officials from the attorney general's office also told city leaders that appointing Hutchings would be a mistake, Leal said.

The council ignored those warnings, voting 3 to 2 to hire Hutchings. Although he was sworn in Feb. 4, he never assumed the duties of chief because his background check had not been conducted.

Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Louis Verdugo said that after Hutchings' appointment, his office concluded that in selecting him, Maywood could have violated state and local codes regarding necessary background checks and qualifications for those serving as chief of police.

If Hutchings and Aguirre had not backed off, Leal said, the attorney general's office indicated that it would have taken legal action.

State investigators, he said, could not understand why Hutchings had been chosen, when it seemed "such an easy decision" to select someone with a clean background.

In some ways, Hutchings' selection was not much of a surprise.

The Maywood Police Department is known for giving "second chances" to officers fired from other agencies. A Times investigation of Maywood last year found that at least a third of the officers on the force had brushes with the law or had left other departments with their ethics in question.

Hutchings, who was hired by Maywood in 2006, was one such officer. He pleaded no contest to charges that he had bilked the LAPD for overtime pay while an officer there, a conviction he has had expunged from his record.

And in 2005 he was fired for acts of dishonesty from Los Angeles Valley College, where he was an instructor.

Before his one-year probationary period ended in Maywood, Hutchings resigned amid charges that he had been videotaped having an on-duty liaison with the female owner of a local doughnut shop.

He said the charges are a sham, aimed at discrediting him because he was exposing brutal and corrupt officers on the force.

Hutchings said he was a whistle-blower who only wanted to help Maywood, which he said had been done a disservice by corrupt officers.

He said that the entire department needed to be shut down, and that officers were angered because he was willing to do it.

Maywood is a city of 30,000 that is about 96% Latino.

It is one of about 50 independent police agencies operating in Los Angeles County.


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