Plainclothes Vice Officer Beaten by 2 in Uniform
An undercover police vice officer patrolling for prostitutes near downtown Los Angeles was pulled over by two uniformed policemen from another division and beaten despite his pleadings that he was an officer on duty, The Times has learned.
The incident has sparked an internal investigation while prompting fears among some police officials that hostile feelings could spread between officers of Newton Division and Central Division, whose personnel were involved in the episode Friday night.
The Newton vice officer who was beaten, Glen E. Younger, remains off duty, recovering from head, neck and shoulder injuries he received after encountering Officers Nicholas C. Sinibaldi and John B. Wilson, from the Central station.
The respective commanding officers of the Central and Newton stations, Capt. Richard L. Batson and Capt. Frank J. Patchett, would not discuss the incident publicly. A Los Angeles Police Department spokesman would say only that it is under internal investigation.
“Once (the investigation) is completed, if any involved officer acted inappropriately and committed any act of misconduct, he will be disciplined commensurate with the degree of misconduct,” said Cmdr. William Booth.
Other sources, however, said Younger was slowly cruising in an unmarked car in the area of 7th and Kohler streets, just east of downtown, when he was spotted by Sinibaldi, a field training officer, and Wilson, a probationary patrolman who joined the department in May.
The area is along the border that separates the two police station’s patrol areas.
According to a Newton officer familiar with the incident, Wilson and Sinibaldi, a seven-year veteran of the force, suspected that Younger was a civilian searching for prostitutes--which was, in fact, the role Younger was portraying. The two officers turned on the red lights of their patrol car, and Younger stopped.
“They tell the guy to get out, and he gets out and tells them, ‘I have a badge in the car,’ or something to that effect,” said the Newton officer. “They don’t know if he’s a security guard or what, so they tell him to get his hands up . . . and he’s not being responsive. They cuff him, and there’s some use of force.
“I think what we have here is a communications screw-up.”
According to a Central officer familiar with the incident, the officers stopped Younger and shone a light in his face.
“When he got out, he told them he was a policeman, and said his badge was in his back pocket,” the Central officer said. "(Sinibaldi) said words to the effect that he either didn’t care or didn’t believe him or ignored him. (Younger) kept saying: ‘I’m working undercover vice. Call my sergeant. Here’s the frequency.’ ”
Younger was ordered to put his hands against the wall, apparently in preparation for a search, and he complied. Profanities were exchanged.
“According to Younger, the next thing he knew, he was hit on the head, knocked to the ground, kicked and handcuffed,” the Central officer said.
Eventually, a sergeant from Newton station was summoned to the scene. Only then were the handcuffs removed, sources said.
It was not immediately clear whether one or both of the uniformed officers struck Younger, who joined the LAPD in 1981.
He was treated at a local hospital for cuts and a sore shoulder. An officer who saw him the next day said that the left side of his face was swollen and that one of his hands was bandaged.
Attempts to reach Younger, Sinibaldi and Wilson for comment were unsuccessful.
While street officers from both divisions seemed to accept the incident as a freak, some ranking commanders said they feared that it would do little to help relations between the two divisions, which are sometimes as competitive as they are cooperative.
Little, meanwhile, could be learned about the three officers involved in Friday’s incident.
Court records show that Sinibaldi is among four officers being sued by Daniel Assefaw, a college student from Kenya, who alleges that the four stopped him Oct. 13, 1984, while he was walking in southwest Los Angeles, handcuffed him and then beat him, breaking his leg with a baton.
The officers said Assefaw, who was drunk in public, resisted arrest and was kicking them when he was hit. Assefaw later pleaded guilty to being intoxicated in public.
Sinibaldi testified last year that he did not strike Assefaw, although Assefaw has alleged that all four officers hit him, Assefaw’s attorney, Steve R. Berardino, said Wednesday.
Records show that a year later, on Oct. 22, 1985, Sinibaldi was assigned to a seven-officer undercover “special problems unit” in the Newton area when he shot twice and wounded a car burglary suspect in the back of the head. The suspect was backing up, trying to run over another officer, as Sinibaldi fired.
In reviewing the shooting, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates ordered that Sinibaldi undergo additional training. Gates acknowledged that Sinibaldi’s “intentions were good,” but nonetheless criticized the officer because he nearly hit the other officer’s arm with one of his shots.