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Nicole Bershon, head of LAPD watchdog agency, steps down

July 5, 2011 | 11:46 am

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After little more than a year on the job, the head of the watchdog agency that keeps tabs on the Los Angeles Police Department announced Tuesday that she is leaving her post.

Nicole Bershon, who was selected as the L.A. Police Commission's inspector general May 2010, is departing to accept a new position as a commissioner for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

In making the announcement at a commission meeting, Bershon said she would remain for a few weeks and did not know exactly when she would step down.

The commission, the civilian board that oversees the LAPD, must now launch a search for Bershon’s replacement.

The inspector general's office serves as the commission’s eyes and ears in the LAPD, reviewing all cases involving serious force by officers, as well as conducting regular audits and reviews of the department’s operations.

The office gained increased stature in 2009 when the LAPD was freed from several years of federal oversight that stemmed from an earlier corruption scandal.

As part of the agreement to end the oversight, the inspector general’s office directed to compile periodic reports on the department’s ongoing efforts to address claims of racial profiling against its officers and other hot-button issues.

Bershon had earned praise from senior police officials, who described her as fair-minded, and commissioners alike.

Under her, the office’s team of auditors and investigators managed to keep up with its heavy workload despite staffing shortages.

In her first week on the job, Bershon walked into a flurry of criticism when The Times reported that her predecessor had failed to publish hundreds of public reports that summarized officer use-of-force cases.

Bershon promised that her office would complete at least five of the reports each week -- a vow she kept.

Commission President John Mack called Bershon’s move “a huge loss” and expressed concern that the search for her replacement would be difficult.

“Last time, there were not that many qualified candidates, and Nicole was the obvious choice among them," he said. "In my opinion, we don’t have an obvious choice this time around.”

Trained as an attorney, Bershon held jobs in private firms and the L.A. city attorney’s office before joining the inspector general’s office as an assistant inspector in 2002.

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-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters
twitter.com/joel rubin

Photo: LAPD headquarters. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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