Allegations Against Beverly Hills Police Chief Have Cost $2.3 Million and Counting

When Sandra Spagnoli was first hired as Beverly Hills’ police chief in 2016, the choice was met with effusive praise. The city’s first female top cop earned an adoring piece in Vogue. Her experience as the former chief of the San Leandro and Benicia police departments made her trusted figure in law enforcement.

Fast-forward to the present day and it’s not uncommon to hear town hall critics shouting comparisons to Adolf Hitler.

In the past two years, at least 20 current or former police officials have filed complaints or lawsuits against Spagnoli. That number could top 30 by the end of the year. The allegations range from racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBT remarks to sex with subordinates who purportedly received promotions after a tryst.

On Friday, Beverly Hills settled the first of these lawsuits for $2.3 million. The plaintiff, Capt. Mark Rosen, was once under consideration for the chief’s job himself. He now claims Spagnoli denied him a promotion because he’s Jewish.

The city says it only settled upon the advice of its insurance company but attorney Brad Gage, who represents some of the people who have complained about Spagnoli, says its proof that the case against her is strong.

Just one day before the settlement, Spagnoli spoke to the Los Angeles Times. She vehemently denied sleeping with underlings. She was less vehement when it came to her alleged bigoted remarks. (Spagnoli allegedly referred to yarmulkes as “funny little hats,” expressed disgust at an employee’s sexual orientation, and asked if she had to “dress Mexican” for a dinner at a Latino employee’s home.) Instead, she insisted she is not a racist.

To hear Spagnoli tell it, this is nothing but a smear campaign motivated by sour grapes over some of the hard-hitting reforms she has enacted, including new discipline protocol.

“When you implement change, you create some waves within an organization, which is what has happened here,” she told the Times

Spagnoli has key supporters and some data to back her up. City Council members and the city’s mayor have spoken out in her defense and a recent internal assessment found the majority of city employees were satisfied with her leadership.

But the 20+ people who aren’t satisfied represent almost 10% of the department’s brass. And with rancorous town halls replete with Hitler comparisons, the situation has gotten ugly.

In the coming weeks, it could get even worse.



Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - 22:25

A journalist whose home was raided by police as part of a leak investigation stemming from the death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is