An internal investigation has been launched over allegations that the former deputy chief in charge of internal affairs gave preferential treatment and choice assignments — including rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s case - for several female officers in exchange for sex.
Michael Berkow, who recently left the department to become police chief in Savannah, Ga. and was part of Bratton's inner circle, is accused of retaliating against Sgt. Ya-May Christle. She has complained in a lawsuit about Berkow's misconduct, alleging sexual harassment and that computer data from one of her investigations was destroyed.
"It's all being handled," Bratton told The Times in an interview. "It's all being investigated."
Attorney Clint Robison, who is defending the city and Berkow in the case, said he has already won one round in court and expects to win again in February when the new filing is considered.
"He is confident that when all the truth comes out, whether in February or some other time, he will be vindicated. There was no wrongdoing," Robison said, referring to Berkow.
The attorney said that even if the allegations in the lawsuit of personal relationships were taken at face value, they do not represent illegal activity and the lawsuit does not provide evidence that Berkow treated Christle in an illegal manner.
Berkow declined to comment on the specific allegations but a statement issued by the city of Savannah said he denied any wrongdoing.
"Chief Berkow fully cooperated with investigators during the search process," said Savannah City Manager Michael Brown. "The chief has impressed the city and the public during his short time here with his professionalism and on-the-street approach to leading this department."
Police sources said an investigation of Christle's allegations was launched by Andre Birotte, inspector general for the Police Commission. But the probe has since been taken over by LAPD investigators. The chief declined to discuss details of the investigation.
"It's a personnel action. It's a lawsuit, so there will be no comment at all on any of it," Bratton said, who also described Berkow as a good cop. "He's an outstanding police officer, hardworking, dedicated," Bratton said. In the lawsuit, Christle alleged that she saw two of the deputy chief's female subordinates leaving a department office that had been outfitted as a bedroom.
Soon thereafter, Berkow was seen leaving the third-floor room dressed in a white T-shirt and pajama bottoms. After she complained, Christle said she was transferred and demoted.
Christle also alleged that Berkow had a sexual relationship with a female captain under his supervision. Described as a "quid pro quo" in the lawsuit, the woman was allowed to remain in her post beyond a three-year limit set by the federal consent decree.
The deputy chief also was accused in the lawsuit of having sexual relations with another female officer. At the time, she and her husband, also an LAPD cop, were under investigation by internal affairs after being arrested by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department on suspicion of making criminal threats, resisting a police officer and providing false information to authorities.
Christle's attorney, Bradley Gage of Los Angeles, says his client was also retaliated against for alleging that Berkow and department personnel confiscated her computer containing critical information about the internal affairs investigation of the Notorious B.I.G. murder case.
Gage is one of several attorneys suing on behalf of the late rapper, Christopher Wallace, alleging that two former Los Angeles police officers orchestrated his fatal shooting in 1997 in the city's Miracle Mile area.
Asked about the allegation that data potentially implicating police officers in the Biggie Smalls murder may have been hidden or deleted, Bratton said: "She has made allegations in the lawsuit. That will be dealt with in response to the lawsuit. The department is complying fully with the court mandates on discovery and turning over all the other documents and I am very comfortable with that."