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Audit: LA Pays Out Millions In Lawsuits By Police

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The city has paid out about $110 million in jury awards and settlements for lawsuits that police officers have brought against the police department over a six-year period, according to an audit report released Friday.

As part of the audit, the Los Angeles Police Commission's inspector general focused on the $31 million paid out in employment liability cases — those involving discrimination, harassment and retaliation — and primarily selected those with either a large payout by the city or high demand by the plaintiff. Those accounted for 27 of the 99 claims that were closed over the six-year period ending in June 2012.

The analysis doesn't include workers' compensation claims.

The audit found that 41 percent of the cases analyzed were settled instead of going to trial and those awards averaged $500,000, ranging from $75,000 for a medical discrimination case to $2.25 million for a sexual harassment case.

Of the 13 lawsuits that reached a trial verdict, 10 of those were in favor of the officer, and the cases took an average of three years. Awards averaged about $2 million and ranged from $85,000 for a gender discrimination case to $4.3 million for a retaliation case.

In cases where the outcome was favorable for the department — the city won the case or it was dismissed by a judge — it took an average of 2.3 years to litigate the case. The costs of litigating an individual case are not tracked, but it cost the city nearly $43 million to litigate the employment liability cases, the report states.

The department doesn't appear to draw lessons from the cases or provide guidance to managers on dealing with employment issues, the audit said. The department also doesn't have a system to identify and analyze why cases aren't ending in their favor so department policies and practices can be adjusted accordingly.

Recommendations include that the department implement a mediation program to reduce the numbers of lawsuits proceeding to settlement or trial, that the department and the city attorney's office formally reviews cases to evaluate the city's financial risk, and that officials review unfavorable outcomes and develop training based on that analysis to reduce those outcomes.

The LAPD would not comment on the report until it's publicly presented to the Police Commission and discussed at its Tuesday meeting, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith.

The report comes after several big payouts in cases LAPD officers brought against the department.

In March, the City Council approved a $1.25 million payout to one current and one former officer who said they were repeatedly harassed by their supervisor because they are lesbians.

A week later, a jury awarded a black officer $1.2 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit. It was one of four harassment cases brought from the same unit that included claims of sexual harassment and discrimination.

 (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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