Allegations of Abuse by Police Told at Hearing
When Alicia Jones answered the knock at her door one evening this summer, she suddenly found herself on the floor with a gun pointed at her head.
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy held her down while about six other officers searched her Compton-area apartment, apparently believing that she had cocaine in the home.
“I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me, I felt as if I was watching this happening to someone else,” said Jones, who has worked as a secretary for the county for the last nine years. “I don’t bother anybody. I don’t use drugs or associate with people who do. I don’t even like to drink.”
When the officers found no drugs in Jones’ apartment and discovered during questioning that the vehicles they had had under surveillance actually belonged next door, it soon became clear that a mistake had been made, Jones said.
“I didn’t even get an apology,” she said.
Jones was one of half a dozen alleged police abuse victims who testified Saturday at a community hearing on police misconduct that was sponsored by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. The organization has received about 1,900 citizen complaints this year against law enforcement agencies throughout the county, said Los Angeles chapter President Anthony Essex.
Complaints Rise 80%
According to David Lynn, of the the Police Misconduct Lawyer’s Referral Service, which also monitors police abuse calls, it has received 375 complaints, or an 80% increase over last year, against the Los Angeles Police Department alone.
“Under the guise of the gang crisis in our community, innocent people are being harassed and rights are being infringed upon,” Essex said. “We are desperate to correct that.”
While the community remains concerned about the gang problem, “We shouldn’t have to be concerned about the fact that when we call for protection, we have to be subjected to the same degradation inflicted on common criminals,” Essex said.
About 50 people attended the hearing, about the same number that attended another conference on the same subject later in the day. Organizers at both meetings suggested that the low turnout was reflective of the sensitive nature of police abuse.
According to Essex, people fear retaliation by police. But, in a telephone interview, Los Angeles Police Cmdr. William Booth maintained that police have the support of the general community.
‘Community Is Safer’
“It wasn’t that long ago that the community was demanding more police officers to do something about rising gang violence,” he said. “And the community is safer than it was before we started saturating the community with police officers.”
Booth denied that police misconduct has increased, adding that the number of formal complaints against officers filed with the department is running at about the same level as last year.
Several other alleged police-abuse victims testified at both the morning and the later hearing, which was co-sponsored by several community groups, including the Coalition Against Police Abuse and the Police Misconduct Lawyer’s Referral Service.
Among recommendations thatorganizers said the NAACP planned to present to city, county and state officials was establishment of a minority advisory committee to the state’s Police Officers Standards and Training Commission and formation of an attorney general’s task force to deal with police crime.