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Compton Police Get an Apology : Law enforcement: A Sheriff’s Department official admits deputies erred when they handcuffed an undercover city officer despite being shown identification.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A high-ranking administrator in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department last week had to personally apologize before rank-and-file Compton police officers in order to defuse their outrage over an incident in which sheriff’s deputies drew their guns and handcuffed an undercover Compton officer working in his own city.

According to sources on both sides of the incident, Officer Douglas Slaughter was made to lie prone on the ground and handcuffed even after his identification had been checked and his supervisor appeared within seconds to identify him.

Chief Duane Preimsberger, one of three regional field supervisors in the Sheriff’s Department, wrote a letter of apology to Slaughter and during the Labor Day weekend appeared at shift changes at the Compton police station.

“I went to their briefings and told them we’d made a mistake,” Preimsberger said Friday. “We had information that Officer Slaughter was a bad guy and that turned out not to be the case and the department and myself were apologizing to them and to Slaughter and to the department for any embarrassment or discomfort the incident might have caused.”

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Both Preimsberger and Compton Police Chief Terry Ebert termed the incident, which occurred at 6 a.m. on Aug. 29 in downtown Compton, unfortunate. Ebert declined to comment further, saying any publicity about the incident would only “stir up” things on the street between the rank-and-file in both departments.

“As far as we’re concerned,” Ebert said, “it’s a dead issue.”

Slaughter declined to be interviewed but, according to sources in both departments, the incident occurred as follows:

Slaughter was working undercover on a bicycle at the Metro Rail transit center in downtown Compton because several cars there had been broken into.

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Sheriff’s deputies cover the transit platform and one of them radioed his headquarters that he had received three reports that a suspicious person with a gun was in the parking lot. Slaughter left the lot to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich at a nearby fast food restaurant when he was suddenly surrounded by four deputies, who arrived in two cars and aimed their guns at him.

Slaughter, who was paying for his food, had coins, along with his badge, in his hand. Holding his badge up in the palm of his hand, he identified himself as a police officer but was told to lie on the ground. After lying down, he was handcuffed but told the deputies to look for his photo identification in his wallet in his back pocket.

Slaughter’s supervisor and another officer arrived at the scene within seconds in a marked car and jumped out to identify him as an officer. Still, according to Compton sources, Slaughter remained in handcuffs. The Compton officers demanded that the deputies take the handcuffs off and call a Sheriff’s Department supervisor to the scene.

Meanwhile, the Compton police watch commander at the station heard the confrontation on the police radio and rushed to the scene. By the time he got there, deputies had removed the handcuffs.

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Compton officers are satisfied with the apology, according to Compton Police Assn. President Michael Markey. Officers were impressed that Preimsberger, who supervises the area around Compton, came to the city in person and did so on a holiday weekend, said another source.

However, the same source acknowledged that some Compton officers are still bitter over the incident and want to see one or more of the deputies at the scene disciplined. Compton officers are angry that the handcuffs remained on Slaughter so long and say the deputies made insulting remarks and implied that they could have shot Slaughter and wanted to take him to jail.

Preimsberger said he is satisfied with the conduct of his officers but also acknowledged that “an interpersonal communication problem” occurred between the two sets of law enforcement officers at the scene.

He and Ebert both insisted that the incident had no racial overtones. Slaughter is black. Three of the deputies are white and one is Latino, Preimsberger said.

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In the future, Preimsberger said, the Sheriff’s Department will refer calls from the transit deputies to Compton police when suspects are spotted within the city limits.


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