Westminster’s embattled Police Department has found its next permanent police chief in Mark Lauderback, a previous deputy chief who stepped in temporarily amid the abrupt retirement of former chief Ralph Ornelas and four wrongdoing lawsuits against the department this year. 

“I grew up here and have spent my career here,” said Lauderback, who joined the department as a patrol officer in 1994, in a city statement. “We will continue to serve with honesty, integrity, trust, and mutual respect.”

The city spent around $18,000 on executive search firm Bob Murray and Associates to find a replacement for Ornelas, who retired amid an internal investigation into him over suspected policy violations and concluded with results that the city has not yet disclosed.

But four officers — including a top-ranking administrator — have come forward with lawsuits alleging a culture of discrimination, corruption and wrongdoing at the department under Ornelas, which describe a department in “turmoil” where officers who question top command are subjected to internal affairs investigations in a “beatdown” tactic. 

The city has denied those allegations, and will be represented by outside attorney Irma Moisa of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo.

The officers, Jose Flores, Matt Edinger, Ryan Fletcher, and Cmdr. Cameron Knauerhaze in their lawsuits accuse Lauderback of being loyal to Ornelas and continuing a culture of hostility at the department. 

Moisa has called the officers’ claims about Lauderback “ludicrous.”

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

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