updated 12/15/2006 12:24:40 AM ET 2006-12-15T05:24:40

The Police Department is investigating a claim that a former deputy chief arranged promotions and special treatment for female officers in exchange for sexual favors, officials said Thursday.

"The allegations ... are under investigation," said Lt. Paul Vernon, a department spokesman.

The probe stems from a lawsuit filed by Sgt. Ya-May Christle that accuses the former head of the LAPD's professional standards bureau, Michael Berkow, of sexual harassment.

"The lawsuit claims that Berkow had sexual relations with certain female employees who benefited from that," said Christle's attorney, Bradley Gage.

Berkow, once a member of Chief William Bratton's inner circle, is now police chief in Savannah, Ga.

A statement issued by the Savannah department said Berkow was prevented by Los Angeles policy from commenting on the pending case.

The statement indicated that an investigative firm involved in Berkow's recruitment was aware of the allegations and added, "Anyone who pays a filing fee can file a complaint. All allegations have been denied."

"It is also worth noting that such lawsuits, sadly, are not uncommon for high-ranking officials in a department of more than 9,000 employees," the statement said.

Savannah City Manager Michael Brown said in the statement that Berkow cooperated with investigators and has the "full confidence" of the city.

"The chief has impressed the city and the public in his short time here with his professionalism and on-the-street approach to leading this department," Brown said.

According to the LAPD, Berkow was sworn in on April 15, 2003. As head of the professional standards bureau, he was in charge all anti-corruption and misconduct investigations.

Before joining the LAPD, Berkow was police chief in Irvine, Calif. Earlier, he worked for the Rochester, N.Y., Police Department.

Suit alleges concealed evidence
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims Christle was discriminated against because she was not engaging in sex with Berkow. The suit also charges that Berkow was behind efforts to conceal evidence, including computer records, being compiled by the sergeant for the investigation into the killing of rapper Notorious B.I.G.

Gage also represents the family of the slain rapper, whose name was Christopher Wallace, in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Wallace was shot and killed March 9, 1997; the murder has not been solved.

Berkow's lawyer, Clint Robison, said the claims amounted to "nothing more than a trumped up charge of favoritism."

"We haven't seen anything from the plaintiff that says, 'I can support these allegations,'" said Robison, who also represents the city of Los Angeles. "All of those allegations have been denied ... by the city and the chief."

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