Eight Los Angeles police officers who violated department policy when they mistakenly opened fire on two women during the hunt for Christopher Dorner will be retrained and returned to the field, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a department-wide message Wednesday.
The message, sent on the LAPD’s internal computer network and obtained by The Times, notes his disapproval in the actions of the seven officers and one sergeant.
“While I understand supervisors and officers were required to make split-second decisions regarding the perceived threat presented before them I found it to be very concerning that officers fired before adequately identifying a threat; fired without adequately identifying a target and not adequately evaluating cross fire situations,” Beck said.
Beck’s decision to retrain the officers does not preclude him from imposing discipline on some or all of them, although several police sources said it is unlikely he will do so.
If Beck does discipline the officers, the penalties are expected to be warnings, written admonishments or similarly light punishments, the sources said.
His message is clear that the officers continue to have his support.
“I have confidence in their abilities as LAPD officers to continue to do their jobs in the same capacity they had been assigned,” Beck said. “In the end, we as an organization can learn from this incident and from the individuals involved.”
In response to the chief’s message, Steve Soboroff, president of the police commission, which oversees the LAPD, expressed disappointment that Beck did not issue more severe penalties for the officers.
Soboroff acknowledged that the authority to discipline belongs to the chief, but said, “With that said, I would have expected more significant discipline for the actions of most of the officers in this incident. I trust that the training will be extensive and the Department and officers will move forward from this tragic incident.”
Beck sent the message a day after the Police Commission followed his recommendation to find that the officers violated department policy. Beck faulted the officers for jumping to the conclusion that Dorner was in the truck they opened fire upon. Beck said the officers compounded their mistake by shooting in one another’s direction with an unrestrained barrage of gunfire.
“This was a tragic cascade of circumstance that led to an inaccurate conclusion by the officers,” Beck said at a news conference after the commission’s action. “I sympathize with the officers, but I have a very high standard for the application of deadly force, and the shooting did not meet that standard.”
The findings come after months of internal debate over whether the officers should be excused in light of the intense pressure they were under as they kept watch for Dorner, a former LAPD officer who had killed three people and vowed more bloodshed as he sought vengeance against the law enforcement officials he blamed for his firing.