Four Manhattan Beach police officers have been informed that they will be fired for their roles in the alleged coverup of an off-duty, hit-and-run crash, the Daily Breeze learned Tuesday.
Sources said the officers - Richard William Hatten, Kristopher Thompson, Eric Eccles and Bryan Klatt - were notified by Police Chief Rod Uyeda on Thursday. They have a right to appeal the decision, and remain on paid administrative leave.
Uyeda declined comment when contacted Tuesday, but confirmed in a prepared statement that discipline had occurred. He did not name the officers.
"As for the issue of the discipline that the involved officers will face, pursuant to laws pertaining to personnel matters, my office cannot comment on the matter," Uyeda wrote.
"As with all personnel matters involving police personnel, we will hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity while we continue to work hard to earn the public's trust."
The officers could not be reached for comment.
Attorney Bill Seki, who represents Eccles and Thompson, said he could not comment on the case because of privacy issues and lawyer privilege.
"Based upon what I know, I am disappointed to learn that personal agendas seem to be dictating the results in this case," Seki said.
He declined to elaborate.
The potential dismissals come at the conclusion of two investigations, including a criminal probe that resulted in charges against Hatten
The Sheriff's Department handled both investigations.
In a memo to his police force and department employees last week, Uyeda assured officers that the case was dealt with professionally and urged them to temper their feelings until they learn all the facts.
"I know that a lot of rumors and unease may be spreading throughout the organization at the present time over an investigation that has dragged on for over a year," Uyeda wrote. "We knew this day would come and now it is here. My biggest concern is your well-being. Incidents like this tend to tear organizations apart, with some people taking sides and having conflicting opinions on the issues."
Uyeda said in his memo that the Sheriff's Department investigated the matter independently in the interest of objectivity and "there can be no claims that anyone here manipulated the result."
"It is what it is and the facts were reached by a team of very experienced investigators. The investigation was reviewed by the highest levels of the Sheriff's Department before sending it on to us," he said.
Uyeda told officers that only top administrative officials and the officers themselves had access to the case files.
"We chose a line of work in which (we) are held to the highest of standards by the public and are scrutinized very closely," Uyeda said. "That is one of the reasons why LASD took so long in ensuring their work was complete and accurate. I believe that all of us are proud to be in this profession with such high standards."
The department has not released details on the Jan. 31, 2010, crash that triggered the apparent end of four officers' careers.
Thompson and Eccles - both Medal of Valor honorees - and Hatten and Jeff Goodrich were placed on paid leave when Uyeda learned of the crash.
The Daily Breeze reported last year that Hatten, Eccles and Thompson were involved in an accident on Sepulveda Boulevard after leaving Grunion's bar, where they had been drinking off-duty.
Police in February said the crash possibly involved an intoxicated driver who left the scene.
Sources told the Breeze that the officers were riding in Hatten's Chevrolet Corvette, which did not remain at the crash scene. No one was seriously hurt.
Goodrich, who was on duty at the time, responded to the crash, sources said. He was soon directed to an Arco minimart service station at Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Dianthus Street when witnesses informed police that the damaged, unoccupied Corvette was parked there.
Sources said that when Goodrich checked the license plate, he learned that the car was registered to Hatten. Sources said Goodrich did not file a report of the incident.
Eccles, an officer indicted and acquitted on charges he beat a suspect in 2001, reportedly did not report for his next shift, but later informed his superiors about the crash.
Klatt was the watch commander on duty at the time, and reportedly did not immediately inform the department's command staff, sources said.
In placing Goodrich, Thompson, Eccles and Hatten on leave last year, Uyeda said he had "grave concerns about decisions that were made by police officers involved in the investigation of the collision."
In January, the District Attorney's Office charged Hatten, 36, with one misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of an accident.
Hatten has pleaded not guilty. His next court proceeding is scheduled March 3 in Torrance. His attorney, William Hadden, did not respond to an e-mail.
Prosecutors rejected charges against Eccles and Thompson, saying there was no evidence that indicated they "aided, abetted or encouraged Hatten's actions in leaving the scene of an accident."
Goodrich died of cancer in October. No one has indicated what discipline he might have faced had he survived.
Any appeal by the officers would first be heard by Uyeda. If denied, they would have a right to a civil service proceeding to argue why they should continue to remain employed.