Jackson Retired for Stress From Hawthorne Police Dept.

Times Staff Writer

The Hawthorne Police Department has granted Sgt. Don Jackson a disability retirement, saying that the self-styled crusader against police abuse of minorities is "psychologically unfit" to return to the force.

The decision by City Manager R. Kenneth Jue, which ends Jackson's police career, comes more than two years after the Police Department placed Jackson, 31, on disability leave and four months after Jackson gained national attention when a television news crew filmed him as he was apparently pushed through a plate glass window by a Long Beach policeman.

The retirement is retroactive to Feb. 3, the date of a psychiatrist's report that recommended Jackson be removed from the force, said Doug Gates, Hawthorne's employee relations officer.

"I'm very relieved," Jackson said Wednesday. "It's been a burden economically as well as mentally."

Jackson will receive $2,120 a month for life, 50% of his sergeant's pay, from the state Public Employees' Retirement System, Gates said. Jackson had received $960 a month in temporary disability pay.

City officials and Jackson declined to release copies of the psychological reports that led to the retirement, but Jackson said the report describes him as "hypersensitive" to racism.

"If I do have a psychological disability, it's that I don't like to be around racists," he said. "If you treat me as a human being and a man, then I definitely don't have a psychological problem."

Jackson filed for the disability retirement in 1987 but was turned down last August by Jue. Jackson reapplied, city officials said, and based on the new psychological evaluation was granted the retirement.

Jackson, who is black, came to the Hawthorne Department in 1982 from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and was promoted to sergeant in about four years.

He was one of four black officers in a 85-member department that is nearly 90% white. He charged in a lawsuit filed against the city last year that fellow officers regularly subjected him to racial slurs and jokes.

Jackson said fellow officers posted a photograph of a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning on a vending machine in the Police Department. On another occasion, he said, a white officer waved a white doll in his face and said: "Come on, Jackson, I know you want a white woman." And once, he charged, fellow officers placed a fake police report in his box, describing the arrest of a black suspect in a watermelon patch.

Lawsuit Pending

Police administrators have declined to comment on the allegations, but fellow officers, who requested anonymity, said Jackson overreacted to small jokes and then betrayed the department by going public, rather than complaining within the department.

The lawsuit, pending in Torrance Superior Court, charges the department with intentionally causing him emotional distress and with failing to discipline the offending officers.

A city-appointed doctor cited the stress of the dispute in April, 1987, in recommending Jackson for a disability leave. Jackson later filed for the disability retirement.

Since then, Jackson has worked with several organizations in an attempt to expose what he has said is the widespread abuse of minorities by police. His televised Long Beach sting sparked anger from police around the country but support from political leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who attended a Hollywood fund-raiser for Don Jackson this March.

Hawthorne police officers said in private that Sgt. Jackson's activities have given the department a bad name. Most of the department's supervisors delivered a petition to Chief Kenneth Stonebraker this year, asking that Jackson be fired.

Some Regrets

Capt. Steve Port, who will take over as chief later this summer, said internal affairs investigators had been investigating the supervisors' complaint, but that the investigation will be closed because of Jackson's retirement.

Jackson said he has some regrets that his career in Hawthorne has ended. He said he received "the best training in the state in that department . . . but there is still a lot of racism and other problems. I feel they have done everything for me that they could to make me a good policeman."

Jackson said he will continue to use his training for civil rights work. He said he plans to form a foundation to investigate discrimination in jobs, housing, immigration and law enforcement.

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