Officer Convicted of Beating Undercover Policeman
Los Angeles Police Officer Michael Sillers was convicted Wednesday of beating an undercover officer who was posing as a troublesome narcotics suspect.
Sillers, 37, was found guilty by a Municipal Court jury of one count each of battery and assault under color of authority, both misdemeanors. He faces a possible year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 when he is sentenced Oct. 6.
A three-member police board of rights panel previously found Sillers guilty of misconduct for beating a prisoner--who unknown to him was Officer Ed White--and suspended him for three months. He has since returned to work and has been assigned to the Harbor Division.
Police Cmdr. William Booth said Wednesday that the conviction in the court of Municipal Judge Carol Boas Gordon “does not create any additional problems for him administratively,” but added, “We’ll have to see what he gets (at the sentencing).”
A felony conviction would make firing mandatory, Booth said, but “a misdemeanor conviction doesn’t have that effect.”
The commander noted, however, that if Sillers has to spend a year in jail, he will not be able to show up for work.
The incident occurred last Feb. 3 at the Southeast Division Police Station, where White and fellow undercover Officer John Hill, posing as arrested narcotics suspects, were handcuffed to a bench. They had been assigned to check out complaints that jail personnel were stealing prisoners’ property and extorting money to run errands.
According to testimony during the eight-day trial, Sillers walked into the station humming a tune, which White, acting the part of an unruly arrestee, mimicked. Hill testified that Sillers charged White, thrusting a knee into his chest, stomping his thigh and hitting him in the head with a fist.
Trying to Quiet Suspect
Defense attorney Paul DePasquale told jurors that White was swearing loudly and that Sillers was simply trying to tell him to be quiet. He said Sillers put out a hand to touch White’s shoulder, then moved White’s foot out of the way so he could talk to him.
“Mike Sillers,” DePasquale contended, “is just not the kind of officer to throw his weight around.”
When the board of rights panel found Sillers guilty of two misconduct charges last June 29, it concluded that he did not intend to deliver “a full-force blow and kick,” but rather to “forcibly grab” White.
Nevertheless, the board recommended a 66-working-day suspension and warned the officer--a 15-year veteran--that any further use of force against a prisoner would be grounds for firing.
The matter was referred to prosecutors by police internal affairs officers.
Because Sillers is white and the undercover officer is black, the case prompted questions about racial feelings in the department.