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Commissioner Calls for Study of LAPD Shootings : Law enforcement: Request follows report that officers were cited for mistakes in three-fourths of cases since 1989. But commission members generally support department.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Facing criticism over the frequency of mistakes in officer-involved shootings, Los Angeles Police Commission officials generally defended the department’s record Monday but ordered an immediate review of records to determine whether a problem exists.

“What kind of training has been recommended (after shootings)? What kind of repeated problems are we seeing?” asked Police Commissioner Gary Greenebaum. “Those are the kinds of things I want to find out.”

Toward that end, Greenebaum asked Police Commission staff members to begin a computer review of statistical patterns in Los Angeles Police Department shooting records, addressing issues that were raised in an article Sunday in The Times.

Internal LAPD records showed officers were cited for potentially life-threatening mistakes in three of every four shootings since 1989, with training ordered after more than half the 694 shootings and formal discipline ordered in another quarter.

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One officer, for instance, had to undergo training after firing at a fleeing burglar from nearly a football field away on a Downtown street. An undercover detective, unable to unfasten his seat belt, was cited for shooting out his windshield to try to stop a suspect.

An off-duty officer accidentally shot a friend through the thigh in trying to give her a bullet from his .38-caliber pistol as a goodby memento. And another officer shot a colleague in the back as they converged on a suspect in the dark without turning on their flashlights.

City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said the findings “generated a lot of interest” among city officials and that he plans to introduce a motion in the Public Safety Committee requesting a formal explanation from the Police Department. “We want to make sure this isn’t just shunted aside,” he said.

But LAPD Cmdr. David J. Gascon, who fielded press calls on the issue Monday, defended the department’s record and said he believed it was misleading to suggest that most officer shootings are problematic.

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Out of “perhaps millions or at least hundreds of thousands of contacts” that occur each year between police and the public, only a small fraction lead to armed confrontations and officers should be commended for that, Gascon said.

Police Commission President Enrique Hernandez Jr., head of the five-member civilian body that oversees the department, was on vacation Monday and unavailable for comment. But Commissioner Art Mattox echoed Gascon’s remarks, saying that retraining for an officer should not be interpreted to mean a mistake necessarily was made during a shooting.

Commissioner Greenebaum agreed, saying that the department has acted responsibly in pointing up problem areas among its officers and ordering training.

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“The easy thing to do, and what used to happen at the department from everything I know, is that when mistakes were made, you covered it up,” he said. That no longer happens, he said.

Greenebaum added, however, that he is anxious to see the findings of the commission’s review . “If we see the same problems keep happening over and over again with no change in policy, then I’m deeply concerned,” he said.


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