Battling to defuse a dramatic videotape of alleged police brutality against activist Don Jackson, defense attorneys for two former city police officers have portrayed Jackson as a paranoid racist who set out to cause trouble the night of his arrest.
Even before the prosecution rested its case last week, attorneys for Officers Mark Dickey and Mark Ramsey had laid the groundwork for the strategy they plan to continue this week: to concentrate on Jackson’s motives and actions the night of his videotaped encounter with the officers.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Herb Lapin previously showed the videotapes and the officers’ police report to support the prosecution’s contention that the officers stopped Jackson for no reason, that one officer assaulted him, and that both lied about it in the police report.
Jackson was riding in Long Beach on Jan. 14, 1989, as part of a self-described “sting” on the city’s Police Department, which had been the target of racism complaints by minorities. Dickey and Ramsey stopped Jackson’s rental car, driven by colleague Jeff Hill, for allegedly weaving along Pacific Coast Highway.
While an NBC camera crew secretly videotaped the confrontation, Dickey appeared to push Jackson into a plate-glass window and later push his head against the hood of a patrol car.
Dickey is charged with misdemeanor assault, and both he and his partner, Ramsey, are charged with falsifying a police report. They have since retired from the department, citing stress-related disabilities.
Defense attorneys have argued that when Jackson, a passenger, stepped out of the car, he was creating a diversionary tactic that immediately made the officers suspicious. They also contended that Jackson’s attire that night was similar to that worn by gangs.
Jackson testified that he and Hill did nothing to arouse suspicion or to pose a threat to the officers. “I had no intention of provoking a reaction,” Jackson said. “If we were stopped, I was going to get an explanation for the stop on camera.”
During cross-examination, defense attorneys questioned Jackson’s motives and state of mind. They portrayed him as a person who mistrusts white people and will go to any length in his quest to eradicate racism against blacks.
At one point, Jackson was questioned about medical reports psychiatrists issued in 1988, when he was a police sergeant being considered for disability retirement from the Hawthorne Police Department.
Jackson was placed on disability after doctors said he was unfit to work because he was “hypersensitive to racism,"--a finding Jackson called “absurd.”
The doctors said that Jackson was so obsessed with eradicating racism that it hampered his ability to work in the Police Department.
“He’s under stress and, as such, there is some unpredictability in his behavior related to prejudicial treatment by others,” psychologist John G. Stratton of Hermosa Beach said in one report. He recommended that Jackson not carry a weapon.
Defense attorneys also pointed to a questionnaire Pasadena psychologist Michael P. Maloney gave Jackson, who was asked to complete statements by filling in blanks. They included, “I get angry when . . . I see happy white boys"; “My greatest mistake was . . . to trust white people"; “My secret ambition in life . . . is to create a black nation.”
Jackson said that many of his answers were written in anger and did not reflect his real feelings. “I was fed up with a battery of tests (by) a doctor who, over a period of four months, told me he didn’t know what racism was,” he testified.
Jackson also noted that the doctors were hired by the city of Hawthorne, which he claims wanted to oust him because of his battle against racism in the Police Department.
Jackson testified that the white officers working under him made it clear that they resented his being their sergeant and that threats had been made against his life.
He said pictures of him were posted at the Torrance Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Firestone Station and a station of the Los Angeles Police Department. The pictures had either a bull’s-eye or an arrow drawn through this head, with blood dripping on both sides and slurs scrawled across.
Jackson also said Hawthorne police officers made frequent racial slurs in the station and in the field.
Jackson testified, for example, that he found a picture of a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning ceremony in the Hawthorne Police Department. As a member of the police union, Jackson was in charge of filling the candy machine. The KKK picture had been attached to the machine, with the note: “Hey, boy, if you don’t put some candy in this machine, this could be you,” Jackson said.
Al Ramsey, Dickey’s attorney, asked Jackson: “Didn’t that strike you as being funny?”
Jackson responded: “Based on what I know of the history of the KKK, I didn’t think it was funny. If I were Jewish and they put up a picture of Hitler, I would think it was offensive.”
Lapin, the prosecutor, labeled as immaterial much of what defense attorneys have focused on thus far in the trial, which enters its fourth week Monday before a Long Beach Municipal Court jury. “It’s all smoke as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Jackson added in an interview: “This has become a dirt trial--how much dirt they can heap upon me. They can’t attack the truth, so they’ll attack me.”
WHAT WAS SAID
The following is an excerpt from the conversation between former Long Beach Police Officer Mark Dickey and activist Don Jackson, as recorded by an NBC video camera on Jan. 14, 1989.
Dickey: Come over here.
Jackson: Nah, man, what’s the deal?
Dickey: Hey, come over here.
Jackson: For what?
Dickey: Because I’m f--- telling you to, that’s why.
Jackson: What are you talking about, man? You want to write a ticket, write a ticket. Don’t mess with me, man.
Dickey: Listen, I’ve got the right to pat you down, I’m going to f--- do that. I don’t know if you have a f--- knife or weapon on you.
Jackson: You can pat me down but don’t mess with me.
Dickey: Turn around and put your f--- hands on your head now.
Dickey screams his command several times, which Jackson continues to question. At one point Jackson asked: “Are you going to hit me with a stick?” Dickey responded: “Yeah, I just might.” Once Jackson placed his hands behind his head and turned to face a large glass window, the camera recorded the officer appearing to push Jackson through the window, which shattered. The officer claims that Jackson used his elbow to break the window himself.