2 Long Beach Officers Face Charges in Arrest Incident
Accusing one officer of engaging in “curb-side justice,” Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner announced the filing Monday of misdemeanor charges against two Long Beach police officers in connection with a videotaped confrontation with a black activist that became a national controversy.
Officer Mark Dickey, seen in the videotape as he appears to shove activist Don Jackson’s face through a plate-glass window, was charged with assault under color of authority.
Both Dickey and his partner, Officer Mark Ramsey, were charged with filing a false police report. Arraignment was set for April 18 on the charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Reiner said his office’s investigation shows that while Jackson came to Long Beach to “precipitate an incident,” Dickey overreacted in throwing the activist into a storefront window and onto the hood of the police cruiser.
“After Officer Dickey had physical control of the situation, he lost emotional control of himself and acted in an unprofessional manner,” Reiner said. “It is that unprofessional (manner) that is the crux of these charges.”
The Jan. 14 incident was secretly videotaped by an NBC television network crew that had gone to Long Beach with Jackson in a self-styled “sting” operation, attempting to record allegations of police brutality and racism.
The videotape, broadcast repeatedly, thrust the case into the national spotlight and spurred investigations by the district attorney’s office, the Long Beach Police Department and the FBI.
The filing Monday came less than two weeks after the Long Beach city prosecutor’s office abruptly dropped misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest against Jackson, saying the evidence was insufficient.
During the incident, Dickey and Ramsey stopped the car in which Jackson was a passenger after they said they saw the car weaving within the traffic lane on Pacific Coast Highway. Dickey shouted obscenities at Jackson when the activist hesitated in submitting to a pat-down for weapons.
Reiner said he does not believe Dickey intended to smash Jackson’s head through the window, but that he used excessive force in throwing him up against the window while his hands were already behind his head.
Obviously angry, Dickey “administered . . . curb-side justice,” pushing Jackson onto the hood of a police cruiser as the man screamed in pain, according to Reiner.
Then Dickey returned to the station and “prepared a false report and compounded that by lying to his superiors,” Reiner said. Charges were also filed against Ramsey because he, too, was responsible for the allegedly false report.
The accused officers’ attorney, Michael Hannon, said Dickey went “right by the book” in his physical confrontation with Jackson and that he expects the officer will be exonerated.
“Mr. Reiner is a politician and he’s making a media event out of this and he’s doing what he thinks has got to be done. I’m sure a judge and jury will see through to the truth of the matter,” Hannon said.
Late Report Blamed
Hannon declined to discuss strategy in defending the false report charges, but Dickey, in testimony before a state Senate oversight committee, attributed his report errors to having to file the report several hours after the incident. Hannon said the defense will “probably be built around those kind of factors.”
Dickey took a disability leave due to stress on March 22, the day that the city prosecutor dismissed resisting-arrest charges against Jackson. Both he and Ramsey had been transferred from patrol to detective duties while investigations were under way into the incident.
Police Chief Lawrence L. Binkley said he did not know what effect the charges would have on his department’s internal investigation of the Jackson case or the status of the two officers.
He said he could not comment until he had evaluated the charges and consulted with the city attorney.
Jackson could not be reached for comment, but told fellow police anti-brutality activist David Lynn that “the evidence speaks for itself,” Lynn said.
Lynn, a coordinator with the Police Misconduct Lawyers Referral Service of Los Angeles, which has worked extensively with Jackson, said, “I can’t understand what took them so long to file the charges when the evidence was so clear.”
Jackson’s attorney, Thomas E. Beck, also said the district attorney office’s reacted too slowly.
“It was videotaped. What other evidence do they need? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what’s going on,” Beck said.
Reiner said that his staff waited until they could obtain the Long Beach Police Department’s internal report on the incident, which included interviews with Dickey and Ramsey. He said the two officers had refused to meet with representatives from his own office to give their version of events.
Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who was involved in a recent fund raiser for Jackson’s legal defense fund, commended Reiner’s action.
“I think it’s the correct thing to do,” she said. “I think that Don Jackson’s civil rights had been violated.”
Times staff writers Roxana Kopetman, Bettina Boxall and James Rainey contributed to this article.