A high-ranking Los Angeles Police Department official has been demoted and is facing the possibility of termination after being accused of stalking a fellow officer with whom he was romantically involved, even as San Bernardino County prosecutors announced they would not file criminal charges in the case.
Al Labrada, a 30-year department veteran, has been on leave since earlier this month amid allegations that he used an Apple AirTag to track the movements of the officer. On Monday, Chief Michel Moore confirmed that he had demoted Labrada from assistant chief to the lower position of commander. Labrada was also directed to a board-of-rights disciplinary hearing — an indication the department is seeking to fire him.
Ontario police had been investigating the stalking allegations, but the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office said Wednesday it did not have enough evidence to pursue charges against Labrada.
“Our office has completed its review and determined not to file criminal charges, due to insufficient evidence proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Jacquelyn Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the office, said in an email. She said the office would not release its legal rationale for the decision, saying it does so only in a limited scope of cases, including police shootings.
The news of Labrada’s demotion and possible termination marked another dramatic turn for a respected official who was considered to be a potential internal candidate to be the next chief. Moore has said publicly that he will not serve out his second five-year term as chief.
On Tuesday, Moore promoted Deputy Chief Blake Chow, who runs the West Bureau, to assistant chief overseeing the Office of Special Operations, replacing Labrada as the official in charge of detectives, special operations and counterterrorism and transit units. Chow, who joined the department in 1990, was most recently in charge of the department’s operations on the Westside after running the Transit Services Bureau for several years.
Chow is the last of a group of LAPD managers who rose to top positions under former Chief William J. Bratton, and other than Moore, he is one of the best-known public faces of the department.
Labrada’s removal as assistant chief is not unprecedented. Both Bratton and former Chief Charlie Beck chose to demote assistant chiefs to commanders. Assistant chiefs serve under the authority of the chief and can be demoted without explanation.
Labrada’s departure from his previous position has set off the biggest reshuffling yet in Moore’s six years as the city’s top cop, with Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides shifting from the community services bureau to the South Bureau, which covers South Los Angeles. Tingirides, who spearheaded the department’s signature community policing program, has long been considered another potential successor to Moore.
LAPD sources, who requested anonymity to speak freely about department matters, said the move could be a career boost for Tingirides, who has a relative lack of operational experience. Tingirides made deputy chief a short time after her promotion to captain, a jump that’s nearly unprecedented in recent LAPD history.
Tingirides now takes a job her husband, a retired LAPD deputy chief, once held. Cmdr. Bill Brockway has been promoted to take over her spot as head of the Community Safety Partnership Bureau, while Deputy Chief Gerald Woodyard was moved from the South to the West Bureau.
For Moore, the allegations against Labrada and incidents involving other senior staff members have renewed questions about his management and oversight of the nation’s third-largest police department. In an interview earlier this month, Moore acknowledged that the recent controversies had shaken public trust in the department but rejected the notion that they were signs of deeper, cultural problems with the department.
The female officer who accused Labrada of stalking contacted Ontario police after she discovered an AirTag — a small tracking device that can be attached to personal items — among her possessions, according to two sources familiar with the case. A group of officers from a since-disbanded San Fernando Valley gang unit is under investigation for, among other misconduct, allegedly using the devices to track suspects without court authorization.
After The Times inquired about the Ontario police report, the LAPD confirmed it was conducting its own internal investigation into the matter and said Labrada would continue serving in his post. Several days after The Times story about the allegations ran, Moore announced that Labrada would be put on administrative leave.
In an email that went out to all department personnel, Labrada said he would be taking a weeklong “absence from command.” According to the email, which was reviewed by The Times, Deputy Chief David Kowalski will assume leadership of the Office of Special Operations — which oversees most of the department’s specialized units, including the major crimes, gang and narcotics, and air support divisions — in Labrada’s absence.
Labrada has repeatedly denied the allegations against him and signaled he is considering legal action against the department. In a previous statement to The Times, an attorney for Labrada said the police report “mischaracterizes the nature of everything.”
Labrada was the highest-ranking Latino in a department where more than half the officers identify as Latino.
A Marine Corps veteran who worked a variety of assignments as he scaled the ranks, he was a member of the Latin American Law Enforcement Assn., which advocates on behalf of Latino officers. His name was noticeably absent from a recent presentation by the group’s members to the Police Commission.
Labrada is not the first high-ranking LAPD official in recent history to abruptly leave his post amid allegations of misconduct.
In 2018, another assistant chief, Jorge Villegas, retired after sources told The Times he was having an improper sexual relationship with a female subordinate. An LAPD surveillance unit caught Villegas and the subordinate apparently engaged in a sex act in a parking lot, the sources said.
Villegas’ case resurfaced this year in a court filing from a former LAPD commander who is suing the department for retaliation.
Police Commission President Erroll Southers said he had ordered the inspector general’s office to monitor the LAPD’s investigation to ensure “objectivity, impartiality, going forward.”