A Los Angeles Police Department use-of-force expert was barred from teaching LAPD classes in an attempt to intimidate him from testifying in the federal trial of four officers accused of violating Rodney G. King's civil rights, according to the union that represents police officers.
In an unfair labor relations practice complaint obtained Tuesday, the union alleges that the Police Department unfairly attempted to keep the officers from producing witnesses to support their version of the incident.
The use-of-force expert, Sgt. Charles Duke, testified first in last year's state trial and then in the federal case that every baton blow to King was justified.
"Management's actions . . . were in retaliation against the defendant officers for once again seeking the assistance of Duke as a defense witness," the union complaint states.
Duke said in an interview that he has been barred from teaching LAPD officers since March, when he was informed that the department had canceled his session at an officers' survival school. Despite the department's action, Duke took the stand in the federal trial and is now fighting to get back his right to teach LAPD classes.
The department has "tried to get me to say that the gist of my testimony was incorrect," Duke said. "I won't say it."
Late last month, the LAPD completed a point-by-point review of Duke's testimony in the federal trial. According to that analysis, also obtained Tuesday, department officials concluded that Duke's testimony "contains critical misperceptions of the circumstances surrounding the Rodney King arrest, the department's use-of-force policy and general operational policy."
During the federal trial, Duke testified that the force used against King was justified because King was combative throughout the incident.
"The testimony is incorrect," according to the department analysis. "The degree of force used in the King incident was not justified."
Eight other points of Duke's testimony are labeled either incorrect, misleading or both in the analysis. One aspect of the testimony--in which Duke said officers should use as many blows as necessary to subdue a suspect and could break bones to gain compliance--is rejected as "incorrect, misleading and inflammatory."
Duke said the department's analysis was given to him at a meeting last month but that he stands by his sworn testimony. The analysis does not reflect what officers are actually being taught, he said.
"This gets down to a moral issue, an ethical issue and an integrity issue," Duke said. "The department is saying that officers are accountable for the policy, but the department's not teaching them this policy."
In its complaint, the union asks that LAPD management be directed to rescind its order barring Duke from teaching at department schools. Lt. John M. Dunkin, a spokesman for the department, said he could not comment on the complaint or on Duke's case because the matter is under review.