The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has filed a petition asking a judge to set aside a Civil Service Commission’s reinstatement of a sheriff’s deputy the department had fired for allegedly repeatedly berating individuals during field duty in 2016.
The LASD brought the petition Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, with its attorneys arguing in their court papers that the commission abused its discretion by reversing the firing of Deputy Charles Kunz III in favor of suspending him for 30 days and reassigning him to his original position at the Pitchess Detention Center South Facility.
“The uncontroverted evidence established that in June and July 2016, Kunz failed to act with the honor and integrity expected of a peace officer in his position, causing harm to the community and (shining) a negative light on the department,” the petition states. “Despite the many opportunities Kunz was given by the department to take responsibility for his misconduct and change his behavior as he had several times promised, Kunz continued to degrade the public’s trust with his abusive and needlessly aggressive public interactions.”
A representative for Los Angeles County did not immediately reply to request for comment.
Kunz worked at the Pitchess Detention Center until April 2016, when he began field training at the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s station, the petition states. In early June 2016, Kunz was being trained in the field by Sgt. Jason Goedecke and they were on patrol when they encountered a woman they believed was in violation of the state Vehicle Code, the petition states.
While talking with the woman, Kunz got into an argument with her and began cursing, calling her a word so severe that Goedecke pulled him away and admonished him, the petition states.
“Kunz was later tasked with writing a memo about his behavior during this incident in which he admitted to having lost his composure,” the petition states.
Later that month, Kunz and Goedecke spoke in the back seat of their patrol car with a man who had allegedly stolen a shopping cart, according to the petition. Kunz asked the man for consent to search his backpack and when the man refused, Kunz told him that if he did not relent he would “find a way to arrest him and search him anyway,” the petition states.
In mid-July 2016, Kunz and Goedecke arrested a boy for alleged shoplifting at the Westfield Valencia Town Center, the suit states. Kunz placed the boy in the back of the patrol car, then sat in the front passenger seat. Goedecke reported he overheard Kunz use profanity while calling the boy names, according to the petition. After bringing the boy to the station for booking, the deputies placed him with another minor while Goedecke reported Kunz’s alleged misconduct, the petition states. Goedecke later learned that Kunz had yelled at both juveniles, telling them that they weren’t raised right by their parents and that was why they were arrested, the petition states.
Kunz’s alleged misconduct resulted in an internal investigation by the department, but Kunz denied making inappropriate statements and additionally stated that he did not recall ever being counseled for uttering such remarks, the petition states.
“In the course of his internal interview, Kunz made demonstrably false statements in an effort to evade responsibility for his actions,” the petition alleges.
Based on the Internal Affairs investigation, Kunz was charged with violating the LASD’s policies on professional conduct and in other areas and was served with a letter of intent to discharge in May 2017, the petition states. Kunz appealed and a hearing officer listened to evidence in the case in 2018 and 2019. In June 2020, the hearing officer concluded that Kunz had acted inappropriately with members of the public on multiple occasions and lied about his actions in an official proceeding, but he nonetheless “without any rational explanation” recommended that Kunz be reinstated with a 30-day suspension, the petition states.
The Civil Service Commission in July 2020 announced a proposed decision adopting the hearing officer’s recommendation to reduce the firing to a suspension, but the commission reversed itself three months later and concluded after hearing objections from the LASD that Kunz’s discharge was the appropriate penalty, the petition states.
However, in early June of this year, the commission held another hearing on Kunz’s alleged misconduct and adopted its previous recommendation to follow the findings of the hearing officer and suspend the deputy for 30 days and reassign him to the Pitchess Detention Center rather than fire him, the petition states.
“Allowing a deputy proven to be dishonest, evasive, disrespectful, unprofessional and unconcerned about the safety of the citizens in the community for which he is appointed to serve is an invitation for foreseeable misconduct and reprehensible consequences,” the petition states. “The suspension is improper and clearly evidences an abuse of discretion.”