El Monte Police Chief Ben Lowry dies at 45 of unspecified ‘health issues’ The chief of the California police department that fired him after he refused to support a controversial police reform law dies of what officials say was a “serious and life threatening medical condition” at 45, according to reports. “Chief Lowry died at home as a result of a serious and life threatening medical condition,” the department said in a statement Tuesday. It said two medical emergencies involving Chief Lowry were under investigation but had so far yielded no information.
Chief Lowry, who had resisted efforts to introduce a controversial civilian oversight board, was fired Nov. 30 after he refused to sign a contract for a civilian oversight board that has become a critical part of the debate over race-related stop-and-frisk policing in California.
The Los Angeles Police Commission, which approved Lowry’s firing as recently as Tuesday night, issued a statement saying it had “no other information” than that reported in a Bay Area newspaper.
“The San Francisco Police Officers’ Association, which endorsed my re-election, issued a statement saying that officers believe that Chief Lowry was fired without just cause,” said the commission in a statement. “At the L.A. Commission on Community Relations, we have a good working relationship with Chief Lowry, who was a strong ally in his support of the Citizens Police Oversight Board. The police officers who spoke with me on Tuesday said Chief Lowry resigned in part in protest of his own department’s policies and practices.”
Chief Lowry, a Democrat who headed the LAPD for three years before being promoted to chief of the new civilian oversight board in early 2009, was criticized after he publicly opposed the board’s creation on police reforms including the controversial use of stop-and-frisk policing.
Officers and others had complained for years about an apparent race bias in the targeting of minorities, including young men of color for street stops.
Lowry rejected the police commission’s offer to create a civilian oversight board, saying he was committed to maintaining police transparency and accountability.
“I have spent the past few years working on issues of transparency and accountability, and now I am working to ensure that my actions are in furtherance of that goal,” he said in a statement.