In Los Angeles, it’s the job of the Police Commission to determine if a police officer acted appropriately when firing his weapon and killing or wounding someone. Then, it’s up to the Chief of Police to determine how they should be punished. According to the LA Times, there’s a “growing rift” between Chief Charlie Beck and the Police Commission as he has failed to take any significant action against such cops.
Beck took over as Chief in 2009. Since that time, the police commission has ruled on 90 cases involving officers using deadly force of one type or another. In most of those cases Beck urged the Commission to find the officer had acted appropriately, and most of the time the Commission did just that.
However, in four separate shootings the commission found the police used inappropriate levels of force, recommending Beck take action. In those four cases, Beck chose to either give no punishment or give the officer a written reprimand. In those four cases, three people were killed and three were injured.
Beck believes that he is handling his role appropriately and that the deadly mistakes were just that, mistakes. He believes the officers can be rehabilitated through additional training.
In one case, officers approached a man in their patrol car. Steven Washington was walking in Koreatown. According to police, as they approached him, he touched his waistband so they drew their weapons. Again, according to police, he approached their patrol car with something in his hands, so they fired, killing him. Unfortunately, nothing was found in Washington’s hand and he only had a phone in his waistband.
The Commission found that the officers’ version of events was “unbelievable” and that their decision to use deadly force was unwarranted. As punishment, Beck required the officers go through additional training.
In his defense, Beck has acted on some cases, suspending an officer accused of firing at another vehicle in a road rage incident, and recommending another officer who was involved in an off-duty shooting to have acted inappropriately. But as four the four case referred by the commission, Beck stands by his decision.
He calls such shootings, “tragic mistakes,” and says that the officers were trying to do the right thing under stressful and intense conditions. “They made a mistake, a tragic mistake. Tragic as it was, I tried to rehabilitate them,” said Beck.
The toll these kind of decisions have on the community is very real. If police feel like their deadly “mistakes” will go unpunished, they won’t have quite the incentive to avoid them. Similarly, if the people realize that cops can get away with shooting them, they won’t likely trust the police to keep them safe.
When you are involved in police interactions, it’s normal to be a little scared. The same goes for answering to criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, you need someone on your side. Contact our offices today for a free consultation on your case.