- Commissioners rule LAPD force excessive (FCN, 02-14-2006)
- Devin Brown’s mother files claim against L.A. (FCN, 03/10/2005)
- Activists won’t keep silent on police brutality (FCN, 04/12/2005)
- The challenge of policing police brutality (FCN, 02-09-20004)
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Outrage among a cross section of community residents, activists, grassroots, spiritual and civic leaders reignited, when they learned that a January 8 secret board of rights hearing unanimously cleared the officer–who fatally shot a young, Black, male motorist–of any wrongdoing.
The meeting drew fire from activists and politicians, demanding a change in the City’s Charter to reopen the hearings to the public, and to revamp the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Board of Rights’ composition.
The Board consists of two LAPD captains and one civilian. This hearing included an active captain, a retired captain and a former police commissioner.
Ofc. Garcia released the Board’s 19-page decision on his use of unauthorized force, followingthe storm of criticism.
State House Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-L.A.) plans to introduce legislation, by month’s end, to open police personnel records and disciplinary hearings to the public. A California Supreme Court ruling restricted such access last year.
The LAPD Commission ruled four-to-one last year that Ofc. Stephen Garcia was not in harm’s way and that he used excessive force, claiming that 13-year-old Devin Brown tried to hit him with a car Feb. 6, 2005. City prosecutors decided, 10 months later not to file charges against
the officer, but city officials agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement to Mr. Brown’s family to end their wrongful death lawsuit.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Police Commission president John Mack, Chief William Bratton and Council member Jack Weiss joined the calls for transparency. “People are always going to have different views on how cops should be punished for shootings, there ought to be accountability for the ultimate decision-makers,” said Mr. Weiss.
As chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, Council member Weiss said he would hold a joint hearing with the Police Commission to discuss ways to help make LAPD’s discipline process more transparent. The meeting is slated for early February.
“The policy and who carries the most weight is a contradiction of justice and it is this kind of justice that makes people stand up and take the law into their own hands. I warn them in the name of Allah that our people are on the brink of explosion, because this kind of decision emboldens other rogue cops who feel that they, in the field, can be judge, jury and executioner on the spot over any poor Black, Brown or White people, and nothing will happen to them,” stated Min. Tony Muhammad, Western Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam.
Min. Tony noted that many Blacks are not surprised over the ruling, and continued, “Eula Love, Margaret Mitchell, Donovan Jackson, Oliver X Beasley, everyone that this city’s law enforcement officers have ever murdered or brutalized, the cops have always gotten off. Rodney King, you name it. Since the government won’t give justice, God will have to do it and we, like the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan, can only warn those in authority, in the name of God, do justice while justice is still in your hands!”
Despite the Board of Rights’ decision, Inspector Birotte maintains his support of the Police Commission’s decision, as an appropriate conclusion, given all of the evidence. “Board of Rights is a difficult and thorny issue, as there are rules in place that set the composition of the Board of Rights, and until and unless those rules change, it is what it is. I think if the community feels that strongly whether it is the make up of the Board or the process generally, it must let the powers that be, know of their concerns,” he said.
Laini Coffee, a community activist, charged that expecting a different outcome of the patterned LAPD shooting, subsequent refusal to press charges, the million dollar settlement and ultimate release of the officer responsible, represents insanity. “The White man is insane to think we can be annihilated by the yesterday and current day, historical conditions of a Black reality. Likewise, without unity, the Black Man is insane for expecting anything different,” she said.