LAPD beating victim sues city, community rallies in support (FCN, 08/03/2004)
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – On August 13, the District Attorney’s Office filed felony auto theft and evasion of officer charges against Stanley Miller, the Black motorist whose beating made national headlines following a car chase that ended with his arrest by a mob of officers in Compton.
The case was filed on the heels of an August 3 meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission, during which Chief William J. Bratton informed commissioners, the Inspector General and the public that the heavy-duty metal flashlight, wielded by one officer during the incident, is history.
“I’ve already made the decision that the department will be moving away from, fairly quickly, the authorization of the large size flashlights and moving towards approval of the smaller version–the ones that can be carried on the belt and not used under any circumstance as a weapon,” Chief Bratton stated.
A day later, however, he told the media that it could be “many months” before the actual switch to the small, rubber-coated flashlight is made. He cited a lack of small flashlights that would meet the officers’ needs.
Western Region Minister Tony Muhammad, a member of the Community Commission Against Police Abuse, applauded Chief Bratton’s decision.
“It’s a victory, a good thing. That’s one step in the right direction in terms of the physical instrument that the officer has, but the biggest step is the mentality, the training, the policies. Now that the flashlight is taken, will they use the gun, the nightstick?” he asked.
Mostly reporters, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers and civilian staffers lined the halls and filled the room where Chief Bratton further stated that he expects to be in compliance with the Commission’s 60-day requirement to implement policy initiatives formulated after Mr. Miller’s arrest.
Initiatives to be carried out include:
– conducting a national review of the use of flashlights and other tools by other police departments;
– review recruit and advanced officers’ training curriculum in the areas of effective intervention techniques when an officer is using excessive force or abusive language;
– review the definition, authorization and use of distraction strikes; and
– review training provided when taking a surrendering person into custody.
– The LAPD was also instructed to conduct monthly community town hall meetings to gather public input involving policy issues.
The Commission’s initiatives, particularly with regard to training, are a noble idea, Min. Tony stated, however, would prove ineffective if the perpetrators of excessive force act as the analysts as well.
“The question becomes, who’s doing the training? You haven’t talked to the community and you can’t train yourself. We need somebody that the community is comfortable with,” he maintained.
He reiterated the Community Commission’s demand that Black psychiatrists play a pivotal role in the evaluation of police officers, and advocated that psychiatrists selected by an independent counsel should be adopted.
According to an LAPD recruiter, applicants currently undergo oral and written psychological exams. The latter of this final step in the application process consists of several hundred questions.
Dr. Carolyn Murray, a psychiatrist with the University of California at Los Angeles and Community Commission member, stated that officers and Whites are sophisticated enough not to get their racist attitudes and values on testing instruments, so other tests besides lie detectors must be instituted to detect racism. She also favors developing methods contrary to childhood assessments.
“It’s ineffective to probe childhood experiences, because the school system only perpetuates Western culture. All the heroes were White males who were racist, oppressive and perpetuated genocide in mass numbers globally, as well as today. So you can’t just look at background,” Dr. Murray stated.
Her colleague, Dr. Gislene Mariette stated that Black psychiatrists would not have to actually conduct the testing, but that their policies are crucial to the process.
“The issue here is the dehumanization of an individual and the practices and policies have not stopped officers from dehumanizing African Americans. So the African-centered worldview is a more humanizing method to addressing some of these problems,” she stated.
The LAPD has scheduled officers’ training sessions on “Eliminating an Us vs. Them” mentality and taking a surrendering person into custody for September 21 and October 4, respectively.
While the LAPD hinges on results of FBI, internal, independent and even citizen scrutiny, its counterparts within the Sheriff’s Department were found negligent in abiding by its own policies and procedures after an independent investigator probed a string of inmate homicides.
Chief Attorney Michael Gennaco announced at an August 5 press conference that 25 Sheriff’s Department personnel face discipline, including custody assistants, deputies, sergeants and lieutenants.
“It shows that there are systemic issues and deficiencies in the way in which inmates are protected and kept from harm, and the need to have continued resolve to address these issues,” Atty. Gennaco stated.
One case involved the death of an inmate witness who was killed by the prisoner he had testified against.
For his part, Sheriff Leroy Baca willed, and the Board of Supervisors implemented, the Office of Independent Review to oversee all Sheriff’s Department internal investigations in an effort to create “transparency” within the jails.
Community activist Bo Taylor, a gang interventionists and educator with Unity One and Amer-I-Can grassroots efforts, said that he welcomes outside probes.
“It’s good because sometimes problems come from within, from young deputies and some who may have been on the job who are conditioned for a long time to believe that what they do and how they do it is correct,” he stated.
The independent review of Sheriff’s investigations stemmed from, among other things, community outrage over the “suicide” of alleged cop killer Kenrick Johnson. Deputies reported that they found Mr. Johnson hanging by bed sheets, but the Black community’s consensus was that he was murdered for supposedly shooting an arresting officer during a domestic violence call.