Thursday, February 3, 2005
Chief Bratton's statement regarding the DA's Filing Decision on LAPD Use of Force
Los Angeles: On June 23, 2004, Mr. Stanley Miller stole Daisy Barrajas' car from the street in front of her house in the City of Compton. Within an hour, Los Angeles Police Department officers spotted Mr. Miller and tried to stop him. There was a pursuit, and then a foot chase. The tactics used by the officers in taking Mr. Miller into custody have resulted in a series of investigations and reviews.
Two separate cases were submitted to the District Attorney's Office for criminal filing consideration: the criminal case against Stanley Miller for stealing the car and leading the officers on the chase, and a potential criminal case against the officers involved in the apprehension of Mr. Miller and for their use of force against Mr. Miller.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the key question for the District Attorney in looking at the officers' conduct, has been whether the use of a flashlight against Mr. Miller by Officer John Hatfield was a criminal violation.
The criminal case against Mr. Miller has been resolved for some time. The District Attorney filed a criminal case against Mr. Miller, who has since pled guilty and has been sentenced to State Prison.
We are here today because the Los Angeles County District Attorney has announced the result of his review of the case and his decision not to file criminal charges against any of the officers involved in this case.
This is a decision that, by law, is vested in the District Attorney. I note, the District Attorney is looking at the case from a particular perspective that frames his decision.
The District Attorney is looking at a very specific and narrow criminal statute.
He is confronting the reality that in order to prove his case at trial, he must prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt. The case and the issue of the officers' conduct have now been returned to me as Chief of Police to address.
Let me provide some observations about process-both what has occurred up to this point and what is going to occur in the near future-but not make judgments about this incident and the conduct of the officers.
The issue for me today is clear: process, not judgment.
I say this because by law, I am clearly charged with management of the police and the imposition of discipline where appropriate. I fully expect that my comments today will be scrutinized and reviewed in multiple contexts and I need to make it clear that I am not making any judgments about the conduct of the officers in this case-that time will come. But in the current status of the case I must be limited in my remarks.
It is important to remember a number of facts. First, virtually from the outset of this incident, the LAPD treated this case as a very serious matter. Within less than an hour of the event, two teams of detectives from Professional Standards Bureau responded to investigate this incident.
At the time of the incident, we promised the community that we would complete our criminal investigation within 60 days; we did it in less time than that and submitted our investigation to the District Attorney's office.
As well, our reorganization of traditional "Internal Affairs" into a Professional Standards Bureau with two branches, criminal investigations and administrative investigations, allowed for separate but parallel investigations to occur.
Indeed, from the first hours of this case, our criminal investigators have been working with the District Attorney, following the District Attorney's investigative and legal guidance. It is that investigation that the District Attorney has been reviewing.
But we have not been waiting for the DA to finish his criminal review before proceeding with our administrative investigation. Our bifurcated structure has allowed Professional Standards Bureau to conduct our administrative investigation literally half a step behind, but parallel with the criminal investigation. As a result we are prepared to move quickly from an administrative process perspective.
From the outset, we have treated this case as our most serious level of force investigation, as a "categorical" force investigation, a status reserved for officer-involved shootings and other major, significant use of force matters.
Initially, we were not sure whether this case met the criteria of a categorical use of force but we erred on the side of caution; we choose the more intensive investigation with more oversight built in.
Categorical use of force cases require that we alert the Inspector General to the incident.
That was done from the beginning. Inspector General Andre Birotte has been with LAPD detectives and investigators at each and every step of this case. He has been present when investigative decisions were made and he has been involved in making sure that every rock was looked under, every lead investigated, every fact collected.
Indeed, even though we were not required to, we have kept the Federal Consent Decree Monitor fully informed of our investigation, as well as the FBI and the United States Department of Justice.
We are now at a critical process juncture. We will closely review the finding and analysis of the District Attorney's office. I expect to brief the Police Commission next Tuesday about this case and the administrative path we will follow.
Now that the District Attorney has spoken, the immediate decision that we must make is whether to maintain this investigation as a "categorical case" or change it to a "non-categorical" use of force case. The process is different for each case.
Simply put, if this is a categorical use of force, then our process dictates that the case be presented to a use of force board. This internal review board will decide in the first instance as to the propriety of the use of force.
I then review the board's decision. In turn, the Police Commission reviews my recommendation. If any officer were found to have acted improperly by the Police Commission, it would then be put into a different process, a discipline process for review, adjudication and a potential disciplinary penalty.
If our review finds that this is not a categorical use of force, there is a different, faster process of review and action. If, after review, we decide this is a non-categorical use of force, then the administrative investigation will be finalized and it will be provided to the division captain for review. In the first instance, it will be the division captain from Southeast, Captain Sergio Diaz, who will review the total investigation and make decisions about potential administrative discipline: whether there should be any; if any, who should be the subject of it and how severe it should be. The decision by the area captain is reviewed-and subject to be changed-by the bureau chief, in this case Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger and ultimately by me.
If any police officer is charged with administrative violations, California state law mandates that we follow certain processes and procedures. Quite simply, this state law provides rights for the officers and is designed to ensure that the LAPD as the employer follows the law and provides the officers with their due process rights. I intend to follow the law. I intend to follow our processes, our policies, and our procedures. I will go where the truth takes us.
The Consent Decree was intended to create processes and procedures that would ensure we took the right steps, for the right reasons in the proper and lawful fashion. I intend to do exactly that. In some respects, this case is the first high profile test of the appropriateness and functionality of the new processes that we have labored so hard to implement over the last three years.
So moving forward, first, I received the opinion and analysis of the District Attorney. I expect to review it over the coming days. Second, I will brief the Police Commission on Tuesday and alert them to the next steps we will be taking. Throughout this process, we have maintained the highest level of transparency with the community that we could by law. That will continue.
We welcome the oversight and investigative insight of the Inspector General and expect and hope that will continue. This matter is a long way from being concluded. Today marks one decision, a decision related to criminal prosecution, an important but narrow aspect of this case. On an administrative level, we will continue to investigate, review and, if appropriate, hold people accountable for their actions in this incident.
This news release was prepared by the Los Angeles Police Department's Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.