LAPD watchdog to oversee Moonves investigation

The Los Angeles Police Department inspector general will oversee an investigation into how at least one LAPD officer was implicated in a scheme to cover up allegations of sexual abuse by former CBS Corp. boss Leslie Moonves.

The Civilian Police Commission directed its independent watchdog, Inspector General Mark Smith, to oversee and assist in the LAPD’s investigations at its Tuesday meeting. The move was fueled by anger among commission members, who expressed their dismay at the revelation that a now-retired LAPD captain allegedly helped Moonves keep the assault claims under wraps.

“This is a stunning example of what some call old-school nepotism. It goes to the heart of corruption,” Commission President William Briggs said, adding that he was “beyond disgust” at the findings of a report released last week by New York’s attorney general’s office on the cover-up of the captain’s involvement.

“It absolutely puts our city, this department in a bad light, nationally, that this kind of corrupt abuse of power is still going on in this day and age and revictimizes the victim,” Briggs said.

The inquiry, Smith said, will not only examine the captain’s actions, but will also cover the “department’s” “practices” for handling cases of sexual misconduct and its policies on officers’ off-duty work.

The New York Attorney General’s report did not name the captain, but the LAPD later identified him as Cory Palka, who retired as commander and served as the department’s Hollywood branch captain in 2017 and 2018.

Palka is accused of alerting CBS executives that a woman had come to the Hollywood station to file a report accusing Moonves of assaulting her in a restaurant parking lot many years ago.

Palka’s call set in motion an elaborate cover-up involving Moonves and senior CBS officials. According to the New York Attorney General’s report, Palka was friends with the company’s executives after several years serving in Moonves’ security detail for the Grammy Awards, the report said.

The report was quickly condemned by victims’ rights advocates, who said it highlighted the immense challenges women still face when making complaints of wrongdoing and the role that powerful interests like CBS and the LAPD play in the play undermining these complaints.

Commissioner Eileen Decker echoed Briggs’ anger at Tuesday’s meeting, saying the episode “takes us a long way back.” She later told Smith that she expected the investigation to examine every department employee, both current and retired, “who was involved.”

“You have that clarification, don’t you, Inspector General?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” he replied.

Decker also requested that the office of the inspector general “review or evaluate all departmental procedures” related to handling sexual assault reports and report its findings to the commission. The inquiry, she said, “should look broadly at best practices and procedures and not limit its perspective to police departments.”

LAPD officers working part-time as security guards for Los Angeles’ elite — from Hollywood producers to record company executives — is nothing new. However, in light of the revelations in the Moonves case, Commissioner Lou Calanche suggested the inquiry should take a closer look at “what policies and procedures are in place about who to report [officers] work and whether there is a potential conflict or conflict of interest.”

LAPD chief Michel Moore said a review of off-duty work permits was already underway. He acknowledged the breach of trust Palka’s alleged actions had caused and promised that the department’s investigation would “leave no stone unturned in this regard.”

In addition to its internal review, the LAPD is cooperating with parallel investigations by the California and New York Attorneys General’s offices.

Moore said the department will soon be moving to a computerized system that tracks who accesses crime reports and protects against mistakes like the Palka one.

For decades, some departmental reports were kept on paper, “which doesn’t have the accountability; Copies can be made without records,” he said. The department expects to start using its new system in January, which is still in the “draft phase,” he said.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2018 on Moonves accuser Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb’s allegations, which were made when the #MeToo movement was in full swing.

After going to the Hollywood Division station to make a report, Palka left a voicemail message for a CBS executive on Nov. 10, 2017, according to the New York Attorney General’s report. In it, Palka reported that “about a few hours ago, someone entered the ward and made allegations of sexual assault against your boss,” the report reads.

Palka secretly provided Moonves and other CBS executives with updates on the progress of the LAPD investigation, the attorney general’s report said. He also gave them personal details about Golden-Gottlieb and even slipped them a copy of the report she had submitted, the report said.

CBS executives used the information to penetrate “the victim’s personal circumstances and those of her family,” the report said.

Times editors Meg James and Richard Winton contributed to this report. LAPD watchdog to oversee Moonves investigation

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