Po­lice union vents anger over shoot­ing rul­ing

Po­lice Com­mis­sion comes un­der at­tack from union while ac­tivists de­mand fir­ing of LAPD chief.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Kate Mather kate.mather@latimes.com

Lead­ers tell the Los An­ge­les civil­ian Po­lice Com­mis­sion that its de­ci­sion fault­ing an off icer in the killing of Ezell Ford en­dan­gers of­fi­cers and the public.

Ten­sions over last week’s de­ci­sion in the fa­tal LAPD shoot­ing of Ezell Ford con­tin­ued to sim­mer Tues­day as union of­fi­cials blasted po­lice com­mis­sion­ers, say­ing that their rul­ing threat­ened the safety of of­fi­cers and the public.

Craig Lally, the pres­i­dent of the union that rep­re­sents rank-and-file LAPD of­fi­cers, and other union of­fi­cials were blunt as they ad­dressed the Po­lice Com­mis­sion dur­ing the panel’s first public meet­ing since it de­ter­mined that one of­fi­cer was not jus­ti­fied in fa­tally shoot­ing Ford, even though the of­fi­cer was strug­gling with Ford over con­trol of his gun

Union of­fi­cials said of­fi­cers now fear that they will be un­fairly scru­ti­nized by the com­mis­sion for us­ing deadly force, even if their lives are in dan­ger.

“This de­ci­sion and the faulty rea­son­ing be­hind it was ir­re­spon­si­ble and [has] the po­ten­tial of putting our of­fi­cers at risk,” Lally said.

The re­marks came dur­ing another an­i­mated weekly meet­ing of the Po­lice Com­mis­sion, which was also at­tended by some ac­tivists who have de­manded that Po­lice Chief Char­lie Beck be fired for his han­dling of the Ford case. Although the com­mis­sion­ers ul­ti­mately de­cided that the of­fi­cer vi­o­lated LAPD pol­icy dur­ing the shoot­ing, Beck had rec­om­mended that both of­fi­cers in­volved be cleared.

One man drew ap­plause as he taunted Beck, telling the chief, “Your days are num­bered.” The man then took a fist­ful of change from his pocket and threw it in the air, say­ing that it was for Beck’s re­tire­ment fund. Another ac­tivist, Na­jee Ali, pre­sented what he de­scribed as a “cer­tifi­cate of courage” to com­mis­sion­ers for show­ing “courage and con­vic­tion” in their rul­ing.

The most tense mo­ment came af­ter Lally de­scribed Ford as a “known gang mem­ber,” prompt­ing many in the au­di­ence to shout at the union pres­i­dent and ac­cuse him of slan­der. “That’s not right!” one woman in the au­di­ence yelled as another be­gan chant­ing, “Black lives, we mat­ter here.”

The LAPD has not said whether Ford was af­fil­i­ated with any gang, and Beck de­clined to com­ment on the is­sue af­ter the meet­ing Tues­day. When asked whether her son had any gang af­fil­i­a­tions, Ford’s mother told The Times ear­lier this month, “Not that I know of.”

Redacted copies of inves- tiga­tive re­ports made public last week said the of­fi­cers had stopped Ford in a South Los An­ge­les neigh­bor­hood known for gang ac­tiv­ity, but did not men­tion any gang in­volve­ment by Ford.

The Aug. 11 shoot­ing of Ford, who was African Amer­i­can, be­came a lo­cal touch­stone in the heated na­tional de­bate about po­lice of­fi­cers and their use of force, par­tic­u­larly against black men.

The LAPD con­cluded that one of­fi­cer had been in a strug­gle with Ford over the of­fi­cer’s hol­stered hand­gun when the shoot­ing took place. Although the of­fi­cer may have been in a fight for his life, the com­mis­sion de­cided that he did not have a rea­son to stop and de­tain Ford in the first place. His han­dling of the en­counter, the com­mis­sion con­cluded, was so f lawed that it led to the fa­tal con­fronta­tion.

The of­fi­cer’s part­ner was found far less cul­pa­ble. The panel dis­ap­proved only of that of­fi­cer’s ini­tial de­ci­sion to draw his weapon early in the con­fronta­tion, but said he ul­ti­mately was right to fire at Ford in an ef­fort to pro­tect his part­ner.

The com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion to look at what it de­scribed as the “to­tal­ity of the cir­cum­stances, and not just the mo­ment in which force was used” was sig­nif­i­cant in the way it eval­u­ates po­lice shoot­ings.

Af­ter Tues­day’s meet­ing, the chief said he be­lieved com­mu­ni­ca­tion was a key way for those rat­tled by the de­ci­sion — of­fi­cers, the union and the com­mu­nity — to move for­ward.

“This is not the first time that the chief and the com­mis­sion have dis­agreed. It’s not even the first time that this chief and this com­mis­sion have dis­agreed,” he said. “The sys­tem was cre­ated and ex­ists so that there can be in­tel­li­gent dis­agree­ment, and those dis­agree­ments can be aired.”

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

JAS­MINE RICHARDS ex­presses her feel­ings at the Po­lice Com­mis­sion meet­ing Tues­day. Po­lice union chief Craig Lally drew protests dur­ing the meet­ing when he de­scribed Ezell Ford as a gang mem­ber.

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