LAPD seeks to fire a senior captain over relationship with 911 dispatcher

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12: Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters in Los Angeles. LAPD Headquarter on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles police officials are seeking to fire a senior captain after an internal investigation determined he failed to disclose a romantic relationship with a civilian employee and then lied about it to internal affairs detectives, according to three department sources.

The captain, Alejandro "Alex" Vargas, was summoned earlier this week to the office of Assistant Chief Daniel Randolph and told that he would be assigned home, according to the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss a confidential department personnel matter.

Vargas most recently served as the senior captain of Van Nuys Division. His attorney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Under the city charter, officers whose conduct is deemed a fireable offense are directed to appear before a board of rights hearing, a military-style tribunal where witnesses testify and evidence is presented, usually behind closed doors.

Read more: Brass knuckles, body cams and bad behavior: LAPD probe links troubled Valley gang units

The former 911 dispatcher with whom he was romantically involved has already been terminated because as a civilian she can be fired outright, according to the department sources, although the woman can still file an appeal to regain her job.

Vargas first came under internal investigation after department officials learned of his relationship with the former dispatcher, which appeared to be consensual. But Vargas allegedly lied to internal affairs and tried to dissuade a witness from cooperating with the investigation, according to one of the sources familiar with the allegations.

Vargas was accused of kissing the civilian employee while on duty and failing to report their relationship to a superior officer, as is required under department rules.

Internal investigators reportedly kept tabs on Vargas by pinging his city-owned cellphone and through physical surveillance. Vargas himself had previously commanded the shadowy internal affairs unit responsible for surreptitiously following officers accused of misconduct.

When reached for comment this week, the department said through a spokesperson that it doesn't discuss personnel complaints.

The case is one of several in recent years involving high-ranking male LAPD officers embroiled in relationship scandals. Former Assistant Chief Alfred "Al" Labrada was demoted and recommended for termination last year after he came under police investigation for allegedly using a tracking device to monitor the movements of a female officer with whom he was romantically involved.

Read more: LAPD can’t get rid of their bad cops. Here’s what they want to do about it

Labrada, once considered a possible candidate to be the next chief, has denied the allegations and is suing the the city of Los Angeles, accusing former Chief Michel Moore of publicly outing him because Moore felt threatened by him. The female officer, Dawn Silva, who filed a police report, also has a legal claim alleging that department leaders failed to protect her from social media backlash.

Prosecutors in San Bernardino County declined to press charges against Labrada, writing “there is no evidence” he was “actively tracking” Silva.

Labrada's board of rights hearing is set for next month after being pushed back at least once.

After LAPD leadership became aware of Vargas' relationship with the dispatcher, the sources familiar with his case said, he was quietly transferred from his previous post overseeing the department's communications arm to Van Nuys. He was transferred around the same time as another male commander who was also under suspicion of violating a policy against sexual relationships with lower-ranking officers, the sources said. The other male commander has since left the force.

The sources said Vargas, who has 30-plus years with the department, could choose to retire rather than face a board of rights.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.