Officers in melee won’t be fired
None of the Los Angeles police officers accused of using excessive force on demonstrators and journalists at a 2007 May Day gathering at MacArthur Park will be fired, officials said Tuesday.
Police Chief William J. Bratton had sought to punish 11 officers and called for the termination of four others by sending them to disciplinary panels for their involvement in the melee, which has cost the city $13 million in legal settlements.
On Tuesday, Bratton said that the internal disciplinary boards had concluded their work and that the maximum penalty imposed was a 20-day suspension for one officer.
“Ultimately it is up to the board, and that has been the way it has been for generations,” Bratton said.
The chief added that when he sends someone to a disciplinary board, he believes the allegation is serious enough to warrant dismissal.
Under the city’s charter, the chief lacks the authority to kick an officer off the force. Instead, Bratton must send the officer before a three-person disciplinary panel, called a Board of Rights.
After considering the evidence in a case, the panel can find that the officer should be fired, be punished less severely or be vindicated. The chief can accept the panel’s recommendation or impose a lesser punishment, but he cannot seek to increase the discipline.
An attorney who represented 40 of the demonstrators who sued the city responded to the news with dismay.
“That’s a slap on the wrist,” Luis Carrillo said. “That just adds insult to injury.”
Carol Sobel, another attorney, said the panels had plenty of video evidence of police brutality.
Bratton refused to criticize the decisions of the panels, which comprise various commanders and a civilian. Each officer is judged by a different panel.
“I never comment on board decisions because it might have a chilling effect on my command staff personnel who sit on those boards,” he said.
Bratton cautioned that the board “has the clearest look at all the various sides of the issue. They hear from the officer.”
Of the four officers Bratton sent to the boards, one received an official reprimand for being guilty of unauthorized force but was found not guilty of misleading statements.
A second officer charged with seven incidents of unauthorized force was found guilty of two of them and given a 12-day suspension.
A third officer was found guilty of unauthorized force, conduct unbecoming an officer and misleading statements and given a 20-day suspension.
A fourth officer was found guilty of two of seven counts of unauthorized force and received an official reprimand.
Citing police personnel privacy rules, the department has not named the officers.
Deputy Chief Mark Perez reported the panels’ decisions to the Police Commission. He said that officers repeatedly defended themselves by citing a “lack of training.”
An internal investigation into the incident that left more than 200 demonstrators and journalists reporting injuries blamed poor leadership, overly aggressive tactics and lack of training.
In the immediate aftermath, Bratton removed a deputy chief and commander from their posts. Deputy Chief Caylor “Lee” Carter retired shortly thereafter.