Los Angeles: Following is a synopsis of Chief Bratton’s comments given at today’s news conference regarding recent arrests by LAPD that were video-taped and shown on local and national television stations:
Media and public attention have been focused on two separate arrests and non-categorical uses of force (UOF) by Los Angeles Police officers, both of which had portions of the arrest process video-taped by non-involved members of the public.
The first incident, occurring in our Hollywood Division on August 11, 2006, involved the arrest of William Cardenas, by two Los Angeles Police officers. Cardenas is currently being held in jail awaiting trial on charges of resisting arrest and gang enhancement.
Video-taped portions of that arrest have been repeatedly played on various media outlets. The Department’s Force Investigation Division is in the early stages of criminal and administrative investigations of that arrest and UOF. These investigations are being monitored by the Inspector General and by the Federal Consent Decree Monitor.
We will also cooperate with our colleagues in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As is their practice in high-profile use of force cases, they have opened a case folder for this incident.
The second incident, which was reported in the media today, involved the arrest of Mr. Benjamin Barker on February 8, 2005, on Venice Beach in our Pacific Division. He was initially charged with Battery on a Police Officer, Resisting Arrest, Disturbing the Peace, Vandalism and Interfering with a Lawful Business.
Both the Inspector General and the Federal Monitor have been monitoring the Venice Beach incident since August 2005, when the Federal Monitor was presented a copy of a video-tape that was taken at the time of the incident by a non-involved bystander. I was first made aware of the video and the incident at that time and ordered the Department’s Professional Standards Bureau to initiate a dual administrative/criminal investigation of that incident. Both the administrative and criminal investigations have been completed. The Los Angeles District Attorney declined to file any criminal charges against the officers involved in Barker’s arrest.
The entire District Attorney’s review has been provided to the media. Let me read just a portion of the District Attorney’s conclusion:
Examination of the video-tape clearly shows that Officers David Guiterman, Victor Eguez, and Peggy Thusing did not use excessive force upon Benjamin Barker, nor did they assault him under color of authority. The officers showed remarkable restraint and demonstrated professional courtesy toward Barker despite his belligerent, threatening, and combative behavior. Barker’s words and actions were resistive and obstructive. He kicked at Officer Thusing, lunged toward Sergeant Burrus, and battered Officer Guiterman by spitting on him. Barker spat inside the police car and then vandalized it during transportation to jail. The officers used that degree of force necessary to restrain Barker and maintain custody of him.
In addition, we find that Sergeant Burrus’ and Officer Guiterman’s initial report of Benjamin Barker’s position when the OC spray was administered was a product of mistaken recollection and not intentional misstatements of material fact.
I am currently reviewing the administrative investigation prior to a formal determination being made. The video-tape of the Venice Beach incident has not been made public but has been shown to selective members of the media by the defense attorney representing Mr. Barker.
As Chief of the Police for the Los Angeles Police Department, I am committed to conducting the Department’s duties in a transparent manner at all times. I am limited to what I can say because of prevailing federal and state laws, guidelines, and the advice I am given by our City Attorney so as to safeguard the legal and constitutional rights of both the public and our Department personnel.
In addition, while conducting my investigations, I must also adhere to other rulings, unlike the media, the public and advocates who are not precluded from rendering judgments or basing decisions on excerpts or personal opinions.
Policing sometimes requires that force be used, but let’s put it into perspective. In Graham v. Conner (1989) the Courts have said, when police use force, the force must be objectively reasonable, with respect to the facts and circumstances the officer is facing, and without 20/20 hindsight.
The reasonableness of (UOF) must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.
Also, what must be considered are the severity of the crime, the immediacy of the threat to the safety of the officers or others, whether the suspect is resisting arrest, or attempting to evade arrest by running away.
I reference these decisions and some of their language to reinforce that I cannot make snap judgments based solely on videos or portions of videos. I must engage in a comprehensive and usually frustratingly long, multiple investigative process that is strictly governed by the laws I have referenced; and in the case of the LAPD, by the Federal Consent Decree.
There is no government agency in America that has more policies, procedures, guidelines, and independent oversight with respect to use of force than the LAPD. Our investigative process with all its limitations has been shaped by events and mistakes of the past and corrected to shape the actions of the present and future.
LAPD policy does permit officers to use less than lethal tools to help them control an uncooperative or aggressive and/or combative suspect. Officers are trained to gain initial control of a suspect through advice, warning, or persuasion. Sometimes the use of physical force is necessary.
Pepper Spray can be used to overcome and control a suspect’s uncooperative actions when verbalization is unsuccessful and the officer reasonably believes, and can articulate why, approaching the suspect would escalate the incident to a higher level of force or result in injury to the officers or the suspect. The primary objective of the application of force is to gain control of a suspect through the use of reasonable force.
While police officers are authorized to use force to "overcome" resistance, the reality is that LAPD officers show great restraint. Each year, officers of this Department have over a million contacts. In 2005, we made nearly 160,000 arrests, yet the number of categorical and non-categorical uses of force have been declining.
We are a Department that is committed to going where the truth takes us, no matter how painful or disturbing that truth might be. I would support and encourage that the public and media be vigilant but also be mindful that we cannot rush to judgment. I will not, as you should not.
Questions may be directed to Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.