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LAPD Union Lead Attorney Mocks Internal Affairs in Email to Former Officer

LAPPL attorney Robert Rico sent an email to a former union member expressing his disdain for internal affairs officers.

This is an image of the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s offices in Westlake.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League’s offices in Westlake, May 2023. (Photo: Ben Camacho | Knock LA)

“I relish those experiences — putting smug internal affairs supervisors in their place,” Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) general counsel Robert Rico wrote on May 8 to retired Lieutenant William Kelly, who was previously assigned to the internal affairs division in 2005 while working for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Kelly had initially emailed Larry Hanna, an attorney for the LAPPL that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers, at Hanna’s request after the two had a phone call. He asked to be removed from the union’s mailing list. He mentioned that he continued to receive LAPPL mailers to his home despite having left the union nearly two decades ago, and multiple requests to have his name removed from their databases.

He wrote that he would be forced to file a restraining order if contact did not cease. “Your directors and members have badges and guns and are active law enforcement. I have no such powers,” Kelly wrote in the email.

In an interview with Knock LA, Kelly described “negative interactions” with Rico and other members of the union who had filed complaints against him while he was working in the LAPD, and said he hoped they could appreciate his “animosity” toward the union. 

He instead received a response from Rico, who described Kelly as an “angry, aging man,” and a “keyboard warrior.” Kelly says he has not spoken to Rico in over 15 years, and that the response was unwanted. He added that he takes the animosity as a “compliment” from “someone who dedicated their career to internal affairs and [got] promoted off the backs of our hard working dues paying members,” calling Kelly a “forgotten piece of irrelevant history.”

Kelly worked in internal affairs as a supervisor from 2005 to 2008. According to the LAPD, he started his career in 1990 and retired three years ago. 

Kelly said that, while working as a sergeant at the Newton Division, he “went at a lot of people” for misconduct and was told he was “hated,” but many officers secretly approached him and told him that he was needed there. Kelly said he handled six cases while on loan to the internal affairs group under the Professional Standards Bureau. He was promoted to “Sergeant II” while a member of the union and remained in internal affairs for three years before promoting to Lieutenant in 2008. 

“I didn’t spend my career at Internal Affairs and I was promoted out of there,” Kelly said. 

Eventually, Kelly said he grew disenchanted with the union, adding that he was not impressed by its “bravado,” after asking for assistance.

During an interview with Knock LA, Kelly also alleged that, during his time with internal affairs, LAPPL attorneys would try to direct investigations on behalf of officers being accused of misconduct.

“I think we butted heads because I discovered … they would try to manipulate internal affairs investigators,” Kelly alleged. “I saw immediately that [LAPPL attorneys] would try to give you direction on what you’re going to do, or answer on behalf of the officer being interviewed … I saw that right off the bat.”

Kelly specifically referred to Rico as someone who would attempt to interfere in internal affairs investigations.

“These league attorneys are not privileged to IAG meetings with my superiors. I don’t work for these attorneys and they don’t work for the City or the LAPD. And they would try to direct you on how to do things,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t very nice about it. I would tell them I don’t work for you … It was kind of offensive to me that a private attorney would tell me how to do my job – we had an office of LA City attorneys that advised us.”

LAPPL said in their statement to Knock LA that neither Rico nor the union have the ability to interfere in internal affairs investigations, nor have they ever interfered. “Twenty years ago, Mr. Rico’s sole job as a private attorney was [to] vigorously defend his clients accused of misconduct. Mr. Rico was reflecting on those experiences with then Internal Affairs Sgt. Bill Kelly,” LAPPL said in a statement to Knock LA.

Rico did not respond to a request for comment. LAPPL’s board of directors told Knock LA that it has a productive relationship with every unit within the LAPD, including internal affairs. “This characterization obviously applies only to this particular former member and encompasses Mr. Rico’s professional dealings with Mr. Kelly while he worked Internal Affairs. It does not relate to or reflect any view of officers currently working within Internal Affairs,” the board of directors said in a statement to Knock LA

Rico has recently been in the news alleging that the City of LA and the LAPD leaked photos of undercover LAPD officers to Knock LA reporter Ben Camacho. A judge tentatively ruled that the city provided no evidence that undercover officers were included in the public records request. In one appearance on NewsNation, Rico said the league was “taking all steps legally” to “claw back” the release of the photos.

On March 22, Rico contacted the LA city attorney’s office and requested to speak about “communications between the City and Camacho.” In an April attempt to revoke the records, the city sued Camacho and Stop LAPD Spying, an activist group who collected and disseminated LAPD officer headshots and employment information online.

In the end, Rico said in his e-mail, Kelly was removed from the league’s database. “No address, no phone, no nada,” he writes in the email.

Kelly says he still received mail from the union to his home a week after Rico’s e-mail was sent.

Correction: This article has been updated from a previous version to correct misinterpretations of the interview transcript with William Kelly.