Frustrated that the Los Angeles Police Department won’t warn people that knowingly filing false complaints against officers is against state law, the union representing the LAPD’s rank and file is taking the matter to court.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League sued the police chief and the city this week, demanding that the LAPD add such warnings to the forms people can fill out when alleging misconduct by officers.
The lawsuit, however, hinges on a hotly contested California statute that says making a purposefully false allegation against police is a misdemeanor. The law requires agencies to advise people of that potential crime when they make allegations against police.
The lawsuit calls on the court to determine the admonition is “legally valid, enforceable and must be implemented” by the LAPD and to stop the department from accepting complaints without the warning.
Police officers have long complained about what they perceive to be purposefully false accusations of misconduct, saying such reports are stressful and can stall their careers as they wait to be cleared by internal investigators. But police watchdogs and free speech advocates who have contested the law in court have also argued that such warnings could dissuade valid complaints against police.
“There’s an enormous chilling effect,” said Peter Eliasberg, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Dustin DeRollo, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the lawsuit is focused only on knowingly false complaints and does not seek to change “in any way” legitimate ones made against officers.
“False allegations, they hurt the careers and families of police officers. They hurt the officer’s reputation, they could prevent them from promoting or keep them out of the field where they could be out protecting residents,” DeRollo said. “They do have a substantial impact, and we’d like to see…