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LAPD investigating officer's use of baton during protest

LAPD internal affairs unit investigating officer's use of baton during Dec. 1 protest, spokesman says

Los Angeles Police internal affairs investigators are looking into an officer's use of a baton during a protest last week in South Los Angeles, a department spokesman said Tuesday.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith said a personnel complaint investigation was initiated after a protester showed Smith video of the incident, which occurred Dec. 1 near 65th Street and Broadway. 

A video uploaded to YouTube shows three officers taking a man on the ground into custody. As some demonstrators approach, other officers holding batons step forward to keep them back. 

WARNING: Video of the protest and police baton-wielding includes profanity

At one point, the video shows one officer moving toward the demonstrators, swinging his baton twice at chest level before a police supervisor touches his shoulder and moves him away.

Smith said he contacted the LAPD's internal affairs unit after he saw the video. 

A woman who said she took the video spoke to the city's Police Commission, the LAPD's civilian overseers, on Tuesday. She told commissioners that the officer "took a billy club and swung it like a baseball bat."

"It came within 2 feet of my head," she said.

After the meeting, Smith told reporters that anyone who had concerns about an officer's actions during a protest could file complaints at their local police station, the LAPD's internal affairs unit or the inspector general's office.

LAPD officers arrested more than 300 people last month during three days of demonstrations sparked by a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black.

Protests against police tactics erupted nationwide. Demonstrations in Los Angeles shut down freeways and roadways but generally saw less violence and vandalism than those in other cities. 

The demonstrations reignited in many cities after another controversial grand jury decision involving the death of Eric Garner in New York. A grand jury there decided not to indict the white police officer who was videotaped choking Garner, who has become another rallying cry for police reform.

Follow @katemather and @LAcrimes for more LAPD news.

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