Police union vents anger over shooting ruling
Police Commission comes under attack from union while activists demand firing of LAPD chief.
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.”
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.