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Beverly Hills police chief retires after lawsuits alleging racism, anti-Semitism, harassment



Beverly Hills Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli announced her retirement Saturday, marking the end of a rocky tenure that saw the city pay out millions to settle lawsuits alleging that she had made racist remarks to subordinate officers and engaged in acts of harassment.

Spagnoli’s last day will be May 15, though she will be taking vacation time between now and that date, according to an internal department e-mail reviewed by The Times.

“During the Chief’s tenure, crime was reduced while the department increased diversity, public outreach, best practices and advancements in technology,” Beverly Hills City Manager George Chavez said in a statement. “We thank Chief Spagnoli for her service to our community and her three decades of public service in law enforcement.”

Spagnoli became the first female police chief in Beverly Hills history in 2016. A board member for the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police who previously led the San Leandro and Benicia police departments in Northern California, she received praise upon her hiring and even drew a glowing write-up in Vogue. The positive press was much needed and came on the heels of the controversial retirement of the city’s former chief, David Snowden, who stepped aside amid questions that he was drawing a second salary from a private-sector job.

But starting in 2018, a torrent of litigation surfaced, accusing Spagnoli of making racist comments, retaliating against officers and showing favoritism toward subordinates she had sexual liaisons with. All told, there were at least two dozen claims lobbed at Spagnoli in the past two years alone, records show. As the lawsuits piled up, the city hired Michael Sitrick, the crisis public relations specialist whose previous clients included Harvey Weinstein.

In late 2018, the city spent $2.3 million to settle a claim from Mark Rosen, a former police captain who was the highest ranking Jewish member of the department, who had accused the chief of denying him promotional opportunities based on his religion and making anti-Semitic remarks.

Other claims against Spagnoli previously reviewed by The Times included allegations she had referred to the yarmulkes worn by observant Jews as “funny little hats,” asked if she had to “dress Mexican” when invited to dinner at a Latino employee’s home and reacted with revulsion when informed that an employee was gay. Some court documents contain allegations that Spagnoli had sex with subordinate officers who were later rewarded with promotions.

Last summer, a jury awarded more than $1 million in damages to a group of lieutenants who had accused Spagnoli of workplace harassment and retaliation for giving depositions that were favorable to Rosen’s lawsuit.

Asked if there was any connection between the mounting litigation — records show another civil claim was filed against Spagnoli on March 30 — and Spagnoli’s decision to step down, city spokesman Keith Sterling said the “Chief notified [the] City Manager of her intention to retire.”

In a 2018 interview with The Times, Spagnoli denied the allegations of improper sexual relationships, but stopped short of denying the allegations about racist remarks. Less than 24 hours after the interview, the city settled Rosen’s lawsuit.





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Trump To Sign Order Against Anti-Semitism At Colleges, Worrying Free Speech Advocates : NPR


President Trump will sign an executive order on Wednesday that will broaden Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to apply to discrimination based on anti-Semitism. Trump is seen here speaking at a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa., on Tuesday.

Patrick Semansky/AP


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Patrick Semansky/AP

President Trump will sign an executive order on Wednesday that will broaden Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to apply to discrimination based on anti-Semitism. Trump is seen here speaking at a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa., on Tuesday.

Patrick Semansky/AP

President Trump will sign an executive order that will make Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act apply to anti-Semitic acts, the White House said on Wednesday. The order is generating concern that it will stifle free speech by those who oppose Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

The executive order takes indirect aim at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has generated intense controversy on college campuses.

Title VI bans discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs and activities, such as colleges and universities, that receive federal funding. The executive order will extend the ban to discrimination based on anti-Semitism.

A draft copy of the executive order was published Wednesday by Jewish Insider.

The draft order suggests that those charged with enforcing Title VI consider the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The order points in particular to the alliance’s “Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism.”

Among its examples is “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The left-leaning Jewish group J-Street said in a statement that the order “appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel.”

J-Street adds that “we feel it is misguided and harmful for the White House to unilaterally declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism in this country is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right.”

The White House said it had been spurred by a rise in anti-Semitic incidents since 2013, and that it was looking for a way to ensure colleges take anti-Semitic acts seriously.

The Republican Jewish Coalition praised the move, calling Trump “the most Pro-Israel President in American history” and saying that he has “shown himself to be the most pro-Jewish president as well. Today’s order will have a real, positive impact in protecting Jewish college students from anti-Semitism.”

Trump is expected to sign the order at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.

NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith and religion correspondent Tom Gjelten contributed to this report.





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