Beyond the record heat wave and monumental fires in Southern California, it has been a long, hot summer at LAXPD. The end of summer 2018 will be remembered for the unprecedented number of lawsuits that have been filed against LAXPD Chief David L. Maggard Jr. and airport executives. The complaints are far-ranging — from police safety-vest policy to management actions that are jeopardizing special assignment units. While the lawsuits vary in substance, the common thread is that each of these matters could and should have been resolved before escalating to numerous lawsuits against Chief Maggard, with more to come.
In a recent lawsuit filed on behalf of four detectives, the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association (LAAPOA) is trying to finalize once and for all the policy on how long LAXPD personnel can serve in specialized units such as canines, motor officers, detectives, range masters, emergency services and dignitary protection. More to the point, can the chief of LAXPD remove officers from specialized units by retroactively applying future policy limiting service tenures? Can LAWA then get away with not applying the same policy to non-LAXPD contracted police who supply Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) with supplementary policing services? Can LAWA execs and LAX police management favor contracted supplementary police over LAXPD, their own proprietary police force? And, probably the most impactful question, why would they? This issue has already been litigated for years, with an independent arbiter ruling in 2017 to disallow any retroactive application of 2014 imposed terms and conditions of employment. Nonetheless, LAWA execs have stonewalled, leaving LAAPOA no alternative but to file a writ of mandamus with the courts to compel LAWA to abide their own agreement.
Not only have there been claims of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations filed against LAWA, but the department is also facing a class action lawsuit regarding LAXPD training officers being forbidden from wearing LAWA-purchased police ballistic outer safety vest carriers that assist with back strain due to their design to more equally distribute the weight of equipment that the officers carry. Despite many police departments, including LAXPD, authorizing these vests to mitigate growing workers’ compensation claims, Chief Maggard does not like the look of the vests and thus has issued a new LAXPD memorandum prohibiting the assignment of any trainees to any field training officers if they continue wearing the department-approved ballistic vests.
“I have been trying to put out fires among my officers left and right,” says LAAPOA President Marshall McClain. “They universally feel that the chief and airport management are not listening. We are the second-busiest airport in the nation and my officers feel the leadership has become petty and unprofessional, treating grown men and women like children. Most of this stuff does not make sense, but those who are the decision makers come from much smaller police forces and do not seem to have adjusted to policing in the major leagues. There are those who have the authority and ability to resolve these ongoing matters, but prior meetings have chosen to allow minor issues to become major problems due to their unwillingness to weigh in on any resolutions. We will continue to spend our time on re-litigating a retroactive rule that an independent arbitrator already said is wrong, and issues like officers not being able to wear ADA-approved vests that actually improve their performance, but I do not think this is in the city, the airport and the flying public’s best interests.”
Other lawsuits involving gender discrimination and retaliation by management are also pending. For context, over the last five months, an unprecedented five separate lawsuits have been filed against LAXPD’s police chief and LAWA management concerning gender discrimination, racial discrimination, retaliation, and more, with additional complaints actively being drafted.
LAXPD is the largest airport police force in the United States, with over 500 sworn officers and 700 security and civilian support staff. It is the largest majority-minority police union in the nation. In its long and proud history dating back to 1946, LAXPD has never seen the type of circumstances that would lead to lawsuits by the number of officers that currently have filed with the courts.
To review the lawsuits filed against LAWA and Chief Maggard, go to laapoa.com/lawsuits.