Friday, September 18, 2009

LAUSD'S FINEST SHAKEUP – School Police Chief Manion relinquishes powers but old blood is still at top

By Max Taves | LA Weekly

Published on September 18, 2009 at 1:17pm

Just days after L.A. Weekly reported that Los Angeles Unified School District’s tiny police force is steeped in mismanagement and dominated by a code of silence that allows Internal Affairs probes of school cops to be buried for years, LAUSD Police Chief Lawrence E. Manion has apparently given up some of his powers to Deputy Chief Michael Bowman.

Manion wrote an internal memo obtained by the Weekly that announced the sudden shakeup — three months before his scheduled retirement in December. Manion’s September 15 memo stated without further elaboration that, “Effective immediately, Deputy Chief Michael Bowman will be assigned to the Office of Chief of Police.”

Sources tell the Weekly that Bowman is being put in line to replace Manion, who is no longer regularly seen around his office at LAUSD police headquarters.

Manion’s memo set off immediate confusion. District spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry told the Weekly that Manion will continue to be chief through December, and she could not explain the memo, which she had not seen.

According to Manion’s memo, Deputy Chief Tim Anderson — who was linked in the Weekly investigation to a series of problems involving Internal Affairs, and who was allowed to run I.A. with no previous detective training — will be given greater command of the 340-officer department, including oversight of “all functions” for several large geographic areas of the sprawling school district.

Manion was named four years ago to run the school district’s little-known but deeply troubled police department. However, two secret audits obtained by the Weekly show that Manion has failed to clean up his I.A. division, has allowed some school police to operate entirely without supervision and to confront Los Angeles residents nowhere near schools, has failed to keep basic records like crime stats, and has failed to recover dozens of real-looking LAUSD police badges handed out to celebrities and civic figures.

(As the Weekly reported just days ago, in the latest bizarre and embarrassing incident involving the department, former LAUSD Superintendent Ruben Zacarias has been charged with impersonating a police officer for using an LAUSD police badge in July to pull over a woman motorist.)

Both Bowman and Anderson are high-ranking cops at the Los Angeles School Police Department who have worked in management positions for several years.

Both men received promotions to deputy chief from controversial former chief Alan Kerstein, and for the past couple of years Bowman has run the department’s operations in the San Fernando Valley. Anderson ran the department’s Internal Affairs unit, a significant focus of L.A. Weekly’s September 4 article “LAUSD’s Finest: How an oblivious school board allows a tiny, scandal-ridden police force to endanger L.A. kids.” From 2003 to 2007, the Weekly found, 16 investigations of alleged wrongdoing by school cops were allowed to drag long past the legal deadlines, letting all of the accused officers escape punishment even though all 16 were ultimately found guilty of wrongdoing.

Now Manion is relinquishing some of his powers in a confused manner typical of the extensive leadership and transparency problems uncovered by the Weekly.

Among other startling findings, the Weekly showed that the seven-member elected Los Angeles Unified School Board led by President Monica Garcia has failed to oversee the small police force in charge of student and teacher safety, and that elected board members were not even aware that LAUSD police had an Internal Affairs division — until questioned about it by the Weekly.

The most dramatic example of the department’s dysfunction is the notorious 2007 case of school cop Ian King, now serving time in prison for sexually assaulting Nicole D., a college co-ed who had gotten lost in her car in West Adams near the 10 freeway.

Critics within the department say Manion failed to oust King from the police force a year earlier, in 2006, when he had the chance. That year, University High School senior Regina Shapiro reported that King had taken her to his basement office on the high school’s campus, made lurid sexual suggestions to her, and demanded that Shapiro lift her shirt to show him her belly ring.

Yet after the girl formally reported the incident to her principal, Manion and Anderson allowed the investigation into King’s mistreatment of the girl to lapse far beyond the 12-month statute of limitations. Moreover, Shapiro was anonymously pressured to drop her complaint.

Incredibly, the Weekly found, rather than fire King after his sexual come-on to a high school girl, Manion gave King far more power, assigning him to police a wide area of Los Angeles in a school-police patrol car that looked very much like an LAPD cruiser.

Given those new powers by Chief Manion, King one night in 2007 pulled over college co-ed Nicole D., who was driving along a dark street in West Adams trying to find a freeway ramp. Pretending to be an LAPD cop, King pinned the terrified woman’s hands behind her, spread her legs and inserted his fingers into her vagina — all while claiming to be searching for drugs.

King’s behavior was finally put to a stop — not by LAUSD, but by detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department who investigated and then arrested King.

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