More steps ahead in inquiry into Ezell Ford killing
The Los Angeles Police Commission’s ruling that one of the officers who shot and killed Ezell Ford last summer violated LAPD policy was an important step in the yearlong inquiry. But it is by no means the final one.
Scrutiny of Ford’s death, which became part of a larger debate on police use of force and race relations across the country, will continue to play out in courtrooms, the halls of the district attorney’s office and inside Police Chief Charlie Beck’s office. Discipline
The Police Commission rejected Beck’s finding that Wampler was justified in opening fire, but the chief is the only one with the authority to administer discipline against officers.
Beck could choose not to discipline either officer. He could also issue written reprimands or suspensions, or suggest that they be terminated.
If Beck opts to have either officer fired, the officer would then have a Board of Rights hearing, which would either approve or reject Beck’s findings.
No matter what Beck decides, he is barred by state law from making the discipline public, although he can talk about the discipline privately with the commission and in general terms publicly.
Beck and the Police Commission have argued before over how he disciplines officers, and the chief has angered the panel by declining to punish officers after the commission found that they violated policy. Criminal charges
The district attorney’s office is still reviewing the possibility of criminal charges against Wampler and his partner, Antonio Villegas. Such reviews are routine in police shootings where a person is struck by gunfire.
Ford’s family has repeatedly called for murder charges to be filed by Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey.
Prosecutions against officers, however, are rare. The district attorney’s office has not prosecuted an LAPD officer for an on-duty shooting since 2001. Civil rights lawsuit
Ford’s family filed a wrongful-death suit against the department in September, one month after the shooting.
In the civil suit, the family said Ford was not committing a crime when officers approached him and was complying with police orders to lie on the ground when he was shot.
The suit also alleged that officers knew Ford was mentally ill but did not take that into account on the day of the shooting.
The officers, one of whom had encountered Ford before, told internal investigators they did not recognize him on the day of the shooting.
CHIEF BECK is barred by state law from publicly disclosing the discipline of LAPD officers.