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Protecting police who deserve punishment shouldn't be the status quo

Protecting police who deserve punishment shouldn't be the status quo
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announces his decision on Jan. 12 to recommend criminal charges against one of his officers for the fatal shooting of a homeless man in Venice in May 2015. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The editorial correctly notes that some will see Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck's recommendation to seek criminal charges against an officer who shot and killed a homeless man in Venice last May as "an overtly political act" to "appease local activists and perhaps city officials." Those who hold this view fail to recognize that the status quo — "the cone of silence in cases of deadly force" — is rife with politics too. ("Chief Beck's call for prosecution," editorial, Jan. 12)

There is a tendency to believe the status quo is apolitical even when it finds the most highly questionable shootings justifiable. In this view, the way the process has traditionally worked to absolve officers is the natural way for things to be. As a result, recommending criminal charges, an extremely rare step, is considered a political act, while adhering to "the cone of silence in cases of deadly force" is not.

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This is mistaken. The decision not to recommend charges against officers who use unjustified and excessive force can just as easily be viewed as a "political act" meant to appease the rank and file and the police lobby.

Hector Villagra, San Gabriel

The writer is executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.

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To the editor: Chief Beck, after reviewing all the evidence (including video) in this matter, concluded that the fatal shooting in Venice last May was "not justified — and on top of that, not legal." He referred the matter to the Los County district attorney for possible criminal prosecution, as the LAPD regularly does for individuals it believes to have committed criminal activity.

Yet, by complaining that the referral was nothing less than "political grandstanding" and "selling out" of the rank and file, the misguided police union director implies that cops alleged to have acted illegally should be treated more leniently.

Noel Johnson, Glendale 

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