Fullerton officer charged in beating death gets big L.A. pension (70% of his salary)

While with the LAPD, Jay Cicinelli was seriously injured in a shooting and
was awarded a lifetime disability pension of 70% of his salary. He later joined
the Fullerton department. Now his LAPD pension may be reviewed

//

 

ChargedFullerton Police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli sits
among attorneys as he waits for his September arraignment to begin in Orange
County Superior Court in Santa Ana. (Paul Rodriguez / Associated Press /
September 21, 2011)

 

By Abby Sewell,
Los Angeles TimesNovember 6,
2011

Los Angeles officials are calling for a review of the
pension given to one of the two Fullerton police officers charged in the beating
death of a homeless man.

Jay Cicinelli, a former Los
Angeles Police Department
officer who lost an eye when he was shot on the
job in 1996 during a routine traffic stop, receives 70% of his salary as a
disability pension. City officials approved the large sum because it was unclear
at the time whether he could again work in law enforcement.

But Cicinelli
soon got a job with the Fullerton Police Department, where he eventually earned
$88,544 a year on top of his $39,625 in pension benefits from L.A.

The
issue came to the attention of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions
Department after Cicinelli’s name surfaced as one of the six officers involved
in the incident that led to the death of Kelly Thomas.

That led
department staff members to ask the board to review his award. A review would
not lead to the pension being eliminated altogether, but it could mean
Cicinelli’s benefits would be reduced to 30% of his final salary. The board will
vote soon on whether to launch the review.

It’s rare for the board to
reduce a pensioner’s benefits: Officials said they have done it 14 times since
1985.

Emails between city staffers obtained by The Times showed that
there was concern about Cicinelli’s pension as early as August, after the “John
and Ken Show” on KFI-AM (640) disclosed leaked names of the officers
involved.

After the Orange County district attorney released the names
and the city of Fullerton announced that Cicinelli and Officer Manuel Ramos
would be placed on unpaid leave, a Los Angeles police pension department
employee wrote in an Oct. 11 email, “We might get some unwanted attention if
anybody notices that he will still be getting paid 70% of a P-II salary
(tax-free) from LAFPP until we’re allowed to get the Board to address
it?”

Cicinelli’s attorney could not be reached for
comment.

Cicinelli lost his left eye in the shooting and suffered
gastrointestinal injuries and a fractured pelvis, among other injuries. He
fought to return to patrol duty despite his injuries, but in the end was awarded
a lifetime disability pension of 70% of his salary.

He then worked 12
years with the Fullerton Police Department, where he rose to the rank of
corporal.

Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and
excessive use of force in the death of Thomas, a homeless man with schizophrenia
who died after a struggle with six Fullerton officers at the downtown transit
center.

Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary
manslaughter. The other four officers involved were not charged.

The city
of Fullerton placed Cicinelli and Ramos on unpaid leave in October, after the
district attorney announced the charges against them. The other officers remain
on paid leave pending the outcome of a city-commissioned review of the Police
Department.

At the Los Angeles pension disability hearing 13 years ago
where Cicinelli was awarded the pension, a commissioner asked, “What are we
looking at in the future for this young man that has lost his career? We have no
way to determine when somebody takes a gunshot wound in those areas what type of
limitations they will have in years to come.”

Then-Chief Bernard C. Parks
had opposed the young officer returning to active duty but wrote to the board,
“It is my strongly felt position that Officer Jay Cicinelli is deserving of a
generous disability pension to assist him in rebuilding his life and providing
for his future.”

Staff members recommended a 40% pension, but the board
voted to give him 70%.

Pat McKinley, the former Fullerton police chief
who now sits on the City Council, told The Times that he had hired Cicinelli at
the recommendation of LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Hillman and that Cicinelli
underwent psychological testing before being hired.

There has been no
suggestion that Cicinelli’s injuries played a role in the Thomas
incident.

abby.sewell@latimes.com