7 LAPD officers on non-field duty amid 58 misconduct claims tied to recent protests
Seven Los Angeles Police Department officers have been assigned to non-field duties amid investigations into 58 complaints of excessive use of force or other misconduct during the recent civil unrest and protests against police brutality, department officials said Wednesday.
The department said 28 of the complaints involve alleged uses of force.
“If there’s consequences, including suspension or removal, those will come,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said of the officers under investigation.
LAPD said it has 40 investigators assigned to examining the complaints, which include social media videos, photographs, and footage from body worn cameras, depicting the incidents. Garcetti said during a news conference that an independent Inspector General would oversee the investigations.
Throughout the first week of protests after the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, LAPD officers often met protesters challenging dispersal or curfew orders with batons or by firing rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds of demonstrators.
A photographer with the Southern California News Group captured images of a homeless man on a wheelchair who had been struck by a rubber bullet round above his left eye, drawing blood and a large welt. Officers had been clearing an area in downtown Los Angeles on the evening of June 2 to enforce a citywide curfew after a day of peaceful protests.
Videos of the uses of force began to surface across social media, including CBS Los Angeles television news footage from May 31 that shows an LAPD cruiser driving forward toward several protesters in downtown Los Angeles near Pershing Square, striking several of them before speeding away.
On June 3, LAPD had announced it would begin to “investigate each instance thoroughly, and hold any officer who violates department policy accountable.”
Josh Rubenstein, spokesman for the LAPD, said the videos and photograph are a part of the department’s internal investigations.
The officers assigned to non-field duties were not immediately publicly identified by the LAPD.
Garcetti also said Wednesday that he was “very troubled” by the footage he saw of some of the incidents.
“We know that nobody hates a cop that does the wrong thing more than a good cop,” Garcetti said “And excessive force has no place in Los Angeles.”
The union that represents more than 9,900 LAPD officers said through a spokesman that it supports the department’s investigation and that based on the facts, trusts the department to take the proper actions.
Though just last week, LAPD Det. Jaimie McBride, one of the union’s directors, defended officers seen in videos of the incidents, including footage depicting the police vehicle driving into protesters. McBride said the officers “were fearful” and were reacting to protesters’ attacks. However, such alleged attacks are not clearly depicted in the videos.
Following the announcement of the complaints of misconduct, Los Angeles City Council members, Monica Rodriguez, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mike Bonin introduced legislation that calls for a review of LAPD’s crowd control actions and an independent review of LAPD’s use of force during protests to be handled by Gerald Chaleff, who had been previously called on to author a report about a 2006 May Day incident at MacArthur Park where demonstrators had clashed with police.
The legislation also called for an analysis of the arrests of protesters and whether police took steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“The footage and accounts are disturbing and call into question the use of force by LAPD,” said Rodriguez, who chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee, in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Late Friday evening, Black Live Matter Los Angeles and Los Angeles Community Action Network sued the city, alleging the LAPD had used excessive force on protesters and violated their free speech rights during demonstrations and arrests. Included in the federal class action lawsuit was a photograph of the injured homeless man on a wheelchair.
That same day, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, whose district includes the Fairfax District where tense standoffs between police and protesters took place, penned a letter to Eileen Decker, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, calling on her to investigate the uses of force and for the department to review its policies of how it uses force against protesters.
“News reports and disturbing social media footage taken by eyewitnesses appear to show uniformed members of the Los Angeles Police Department physically assaulting protesters (some of whom were retreating) with batons, rubber bullets and some sort of chemical spray,” Lieu wrote. “During these difficult times, as our nation and this city tackle generations of targeted violence by civilians and police against Black Americans, the gathering of people to express their views and concerns should not be met with more violence.”
Last week, Garcetti instructed police to “minimize” their use of rubber bullets during protests. As protests continued peacefully and with looting having subsided, the city lifted its curfew by the end of the week. The curfew is also the subject of a separate federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.