Crime & Justice

LAPD Chief Beck sidelines detective accused of racial, vulgar remarks

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck (C) speaks during a news conference at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck (C) speaks during a news conference at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told KPCC's AirTalk Wednesday that a detective accused of making vulgar and callous remarks in an audio recording has been taken out of the field while an investigation is underway.

AIRTALK: LAPD Chief Beck: Police drones, innumerable pot shops and his 5-year plan

An audio recording full of racial remarks and curse words surfaced last week when political consultant Jasmyne Cannick posted the audio to her website. In it, you can hear a man speaking to a group of L.A. police officers during a training lecture that supposedly took place last November. (The recording below contains language that some may find offensive.)

An excerpt from the audio recording with a voice allegedly belonging to the officer:

In the full recording, the person is heard talking about a fatal shooting that happened in 1997. The person makes boorish and degrading remarks about the shooting and about a female LAPD captain and other supervisors.

The man in the recording is believed to be veteran LAPD Detective Frank Lyga, but the LAPD has not confirmed that. NBC4, which first reported the story this week, reported that the detective confirmed in an apology that he made the remarks. 

“We will investigate it rigorously, and while we do that, I will keep the employee out of the field in fairness to the public and to him,” Beck told KPCC on Wednesday during "AirTalk."

Lyga shot and killed LAPD officer Kevin Gaines in 1997 during a traffic argument. According to the police, Lyga was working an undercover drug sting when he and Gaines met while driving their vehicles.

After some type of argument, Gaines allegedly pulled a gun on Lyga, who fired two rounds in self-defense, according to the police. Gaines died from the gunshot wound.

Gaines’ family sued the city for $25 million for the shooting, but the case was settled for $250,000.

In the audio recording, the man believed to be Lyga recounts a conversation he had with attorney Carl Douglas, who represented the family in the lawsuit.

“Carl Douglas hit me, he says, ‘Did you intend to shoot him?’ I said, ‘I hit him didn’t I?’

"He goes, ‘Well, it wasn’t an accident.’ ‘No it wasn’t an accident.’  

"He goes, ‘Do you have any regrets?' I says, ‘Yeah.’ And then he leans forward again and he goes ‘You regret shooting him?’  I says,  ‘No, I regret that he was alone in the truck at the time.’

"Figure that one out… hear that — alone in the truck at the time. I could have killed a whole truckload of them and would have been happily doing it — doing so.”

“We take this case very seriously,” Beck told KPCC on Wednesday. “The allegations, if proven, could result in significant penalty.”

Beck said he could not talk about officer discipline. He has been criticized recently for being too soft or lenient when deciding how to discipline officer misconduct.

He told KPCC that he’s fired more officers than his predecessor Bill Bratton, though he said that shouldn’t be a measurement of how tough a police chief he is.

“I don’t relish it,” Beck said. “I would prefer that we train people to behave correctly.”

Beck said earlier in the interview that he is a firm believer in recognizing a mistake of the head or heart when deciding discipline. He said judgment could fool a person’s head, leading to faulty mistakes. 

“But when mistakes of the heart — when you do something that is intrinsically wrong, when you do something that you know is wrong and decide to do it anyway —  then that is much more difficult,” he said. “And those are [the] kinds of situations where I use the ultimate punishment available to me, which is to separate them from the police department."