BEVERLY HILLS—Beverly Hills Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli addresses the community of Beverly Hills with a video message regarding current allegations against her and the Beverly Hills Police Department.
A video posted on YouTube, that has since been removed was the catalyst of several lawsuits filed against the city of Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hills Police Department and Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli.
The video stars BHPD officers Stanley Shen and Charles Yang mocking Asians and African Americans using racial stereotypes in the video titled“Yellow Fever With Soul” in 2015. Some of the stereotypes included spoofing Asian accents, expressive comments about genitalia, and an African-American man gesturing to a sign of a fried chicken restaurant.
Since 2016, over 20 complaints from officers and office staff have been filed against the BHPD. Allegations include harassment, discrimination and failure of the Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli to take the proper corrective measures. Spagnoli became the first female Police Chief for the BHPD, after Police Chief David Snowden retired after 11 years in the position. Some of the lawsuits accuse Spagnoli of marginalizing certain employees’ roles and wrongly favoring others. Shen was promoted to Detective after the video came out and Scott Dowling was promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant by Spagnoli even after plaintiffs claimed that he laughed about the video.
“When a law enforcement agency engages in discrimination, that can be a danger to the community,” said Attorney Brad Gage, to KTLA News. Gage is representing seven employees who filed complaints against Spagnoli. Officers indicated that the video was circulated through the department, even playing during roll call.
Beverly Hills City Attorney, Larry Wiener issued the following statement that read:
“The video was produced on the officers’ personal time and does not represent the values of the Department.
We are prohibited by State law (the Police Officers Bill of Rights) from discussing any matters of individual discipline, however, the department became aware of the video and addressed the issue at that time.
The City is committed to maintaining a respectful work environment free from harassment, retaliation and discrimination and provides ongoing harassment prevention training to employees.
With regard to Chief Spagnoli, this video was filmed well before she arrived at the City. But, she has been successfully addressing the recommendations of a 2015 report from independent consultant ‘Management Partners.’ That report, which was authored before Chief Spagnoli came to Beverly Hills, discussed an absence of teamwork within the Police Department, and a failure of Police Department leaders to inspire respect.”
In the video released on January 17, 2019, Spagnoli stated:
“Hello – I’m Beverly Hills Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli. I’d like to take a moment to address the greater Beverly Hills community regarding the recent allegations related to our Police Department.
While I am not able to discuss the specifics of the cases or accusations against me, I think it’s time to set the record straight.
As the men and women of our Police Department put their lives on the line each and every day, it is very difficult to standby and listen to the egregious statements and misrepresentations that have been made.
When I was hired in 2016, the City Council wanted a culture change in the Police Department — most notably to address lack of accountability, low staffing and low morale.
As a woman in the law enforcement profession and as the Police Department’s first female Police Chief, this work can certainly be challenging — especially in an environment where change is not welcome by some.
As a recent independent review of our Police Department confirms, we are on the right track. There is not a crisis in the Beverly Hills Police Department, the morale of the department is strong and our new crime prevention techniques are making a difference. We are proud to report crime was down in 2018.
As these matters continue to take their legal course, please know that members of this Police Department and I are not distracted, we are not deterred – we are focused on doing what is right. We are One Team with One Mission – to keep Beverly Hills safe. Thank you.”
On November 30, 2018, the city of Beverly Hills revealed a $2.3 million settlement after a civil lawsuit was filed by Captain Mark Rosen who indicated he was discriminated against and suffered at the hands of Chief Spagnoli. Rosen alleges his position was downgraded because he is Jewish and over the age of 40.
Rosen accused Police Chief Spagnoli of downgrading his job because of his religion, making remarks about his nose, and asking, “Why do your people wear those funny hats in church?”
“While the City of Beverly Hills continues to deny allegations in the Mark Rosen and other lawsuits, a decision was made by the City’s insurance company to settle the lawsuit brought by Captain Rosen.
Captain Rosen has retired from the Beverly Hills Police Department, effective today. Lieutenant Mike Hill will serve as Acting Captain of Administrative Services with the recruitment process beginning shortly.
The Department has made excellent progress in implementing the changes suggested in a 2015 report by independent consultant, Management Partners. With increased staffing, improved overall morale and a more diverse workforce, the department is looking to the future.
The City of Beverly Hills has always upheld its unwavering commitment to maintaining a respectful work environment free from harassment, retaliation and discrimination and will continue to do so. The safety of the community remains the top priority of the Beverly Hills Police Department,” said the city in a statement on November 30, 2018.
In June 2015, the Beverly Hills City Council received recommendations to update and enhance hiring and management practices for the BHPD. In January 2015, Management Partners, a consulting firm specializing in public agencies, reviewed police department practices for filling sworn officer vacancies and current disciplinary procedures. The firm interviewed 25 individuals, including individuals of the Police Department, City Council, and other City executives. The firm analyzed hiring and turnover data since 2012, and conducted a confidential survey of all Police Department employees.
That process produced 23 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the Beverly Hills Police Department’s hiring and disciplinary procedures. Recommendations incorporate areas such as recruitment, promotions, the disciplinary process, communication and team building.