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More officers allege sexual hazing on LAPD football team

Two other Los Angeles police officers have alleged they were sexually assaulted by colleagues on the LAPD’s amateur football team, the Centurions, saying in court that department leaders failed to act on the long-standing hazing culture. team date.

The officers are represented by the same attorney but filed separate complaints last week. They each said their assaults occurred years apart, at the same Boyle Heights high school where the team practiced. Both alleged the incidents occurred after a practice during their first year with the team, when they were herded into a locker room with other rookie players and forced through a gantlet of other officers, who groped them and shouted homophobic insults.

The officers filed a type of complaint that typically serves as a precursor to legal action, echoing allegations made last month by a veteran LAPD detective. The two officers were not named in court documents, and The Times is not identifying them or the detective in accordance with its policy on reporting on alleged sexual assault victims.

The detective, whose story was first reported by the Times, claimed he was sexually assaulted among a group of 30 to 40 LAPD officers during a hazing ritual for Centurions recruits. Several of the alleged attackers, he said, are now supervisors in the department.

The detective said he kept the assault a secret for a long time, telling only a few family members and friends, until years later he chanced upon one police officers who were present during the hazing. He reported the alleged assault to the Los Angeles Police Commission’s Office of Inspector General in March. After not receiving a response to his initial complaint, he sent the office a follow-up email in April, which was also ignored, according to his statement.

In a statement Monday, Inspector General Mark Smith denied receiving the complaint, saying his office “has not identified any email or other record of such contact.”

An LAPD spokesperson said the department was not aware of the latest allegations and declined to comment. The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, which defends all city departments against lawsuits and claims, said through a spokesperson that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Part of the LAPD athletics program, the Centurions team has more than 50 players on its roster and typically plays against teams from other local police departments.

Both officers’ claims assert that the alleged abuse was an open secret among the department’s leadership and continued for “many years.”

“Many senior members of the LAPD were Centurions, but never took action to stop sexual assaults by LAPD Centurions against recruits before Plaintiff was sexually assaulted in 2009,” one states allegations. “Instead, LAPD supervision covered up this egregious conduct and, in fact, enabled it by using their positions of power and authority to allow this barbaric behavior to continue.”

Michael Morrison, a lawyer representing the two officers and the detective, said he hoped the allegations would encourage others to come forward and thwart what he called an “effort to discredit” the former. them to express themselves.

Days after the first complaint was filed, several of the detective’s relatives received letters “in a harassing manner” from the department referencing an investigation into unspecified allegations, Morrison said.

“We believe the department is inappropriately investigating the complainant and his family members,” he said. The correspondence, he said, had “no relation to the Centurions and appears to be in retaliation for the original complaint”.

The department is conducting a separate investigation into the sexual assault allegations, led by a detective on loan to the Robbery-Homicide Division, according to Morrison.

Morrison also dismissed allegations circulating within the department that the detective was given coveted assignments in an effort to silence him about the abuse he suffered. Most officers who played for the Centurions were told that playing for the team would fast-track their careers, he said, with benefits such as days off to train and travel and assignments in specialized units.

“My client won everything he had,” he said. “He’s a model officer.”

Morrison said his company had been in contact with other alleged victims of abuse from the team, who were afraid to speak out.

“There is great fear that individuals will come forward,” he said. “They believe that if they are members of their department, they will face retaliation and that if they come forward, they will sign a death warrant for their career. »

The statute of limitations on criminal charges has expired, but officers remain able to pursue civil action. The latest officers to come forward both allege their assaults took place after practice at Bishop Mora Salesian High School in Boyle Heights, where the team practiced. In each case, according to the allegations, the police victims were herded into a locker room, where they were forced to strip and wear a gantlet.

The first incident reportedly occurred in February 2006; the second in February 2009.

In the previous incident, the alleged victim said her assault took place during the final practice of “Hell Week,” a grueling period of the team’s preseason during which the players were subjected to two training sessions per day.

A former high school football player, the officer said he didn’t join the Centurions until several years into his career, while working in the department’s west office. On the day of the attack, according to his statement, he and the other rookie players were locked in a small training room connected to the locker room. After a while, a police officer let them out and told them to have “an alcoholic drink” and form a line. Other Centurions players entered the room, one after the other, and blindfolded the recruits before leading them into the next room.

He remembers being led into the other room filled with screaming and yelling Centurion senior members, who were demanding he take off his clothes. The other players whipped him with towels, groped him and grabbed his hands that covered his genitals, he said. He was ordered to walk onto a small platform, still blindfolded, and into a trash can filled with ice water.

The officer said he was then ordered out and forced to stand in front of other officers, who made fun of his genitals being “shrunk” by the cold water and shouted homophobic slurs. As he stood humiliated, he was forced to recite his name and serial number as the other officers “continued to ridicule and insult him,” according to the complaint.

The officers sang a “coordinated chant,” according to the complaint, that ended with “repeated shouts of ‘F— You’” at the new recruit. In the end, according to court records, the officers offered to let him stay to watch the rest of the officers run the gauntlet. He refused and returned home. The officer said he continued to play on the team until 2011, but never participated in any of the hazing rituals.

In the other complaint, the alleged victim officer said he decided to join the Centurions at the request of several senior officers in the Newton division, where he completed his probationary period as a junior police officer.

The officer, who joined the department in March 2008, had played football in high school and remained active in the sport while serving in the Marine Corps. He described a similar ritual of stripping naked and stepping into a trash can filled with ice water in a room full of jeering teammates. He was then forced to stand on a box and sing “The Marine Anthem” while his teammates broke napkins and called him homophobic slurs, he claimed.

The complaint said the young officer felt “completely humiliated and objectified…as if he were an item being sold at auction.”

The officer said he felt obligated to stay on the team and not report the misconduct.

When he finished singing, he said, one of his teammates threw him a Coors Light beer and said something to the effect of, “You’re one of us now.” »

He remembers another officer telling him, “We’ll take you wherever you want in the Department, but it stays within the Centurions.” »

Los Angeles Times

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