ACLU of Southern California Statement on LAPD MacArthur Park Investigation

May 30, 2007 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES — American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California staff attorney Peter Bibring today criticized the L.A. Police Department’s preliminary after-action report about the May 1 action at MacArthur Park. His expanded remarks to the L.A. City Council are below:

“The City of Los Angeles was promised an open and thorough investigation into the LAPD’s use of force to disperse a peaceful, permitted assembly on May 1, 2007, at MacArthur Park. The department’s preliminary after-action report falls disturbingly short of that promise. In its omissions of the critical facts and failure to address the pivotal questions, the preliminary report threatens to be the first draft of a revisionist history that will gloss over any failures in training, tactics or command and thereby fail to find any need for improvements and reforms.

“The report presented to the Police Commission yesterday purports to address what occurred minute-by-minute, but does not say when or why the LAPD decided to clear the entire park of thousands of peaceful participants, including many families. The report does not mention what training, policy or order could have made officers think they were justified using foam bullets and batons on members of the media whose credentials, microphones, and cameras were obviously displayed, and who were neither resisting arrest nor posing a danger to officers or others. The report did not mention that the dispersal orders were given only in English, not Spanish.

“These are the questions the residents of Los Angeles need answered most, and they were ignored by the Department’s report, and would not have been raised but for the questions of Police Commissioners yesterday and Councilmembers today.

“Recent discussion about how many Metro Division officers received crowd-control training, and how recently, obscures a more basic question: How can LAPD officers think that use of force is justified against a person who is responding, in their eyes, too slowly to a dispersal order, but is not resisting arrest and poses no threat to the safety of officers or others? The error evident from videotapes is not advanced crowd control, but basic use of force.

“The constraints on public investigation under the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights apply only to investigations by a police department used to determine officer discipline. This need not hamstring transparency in this extraordinary case. The City Council can and should order a fully public investigation — with public testimony, evidence and expert opinion — by an independent body that can be held entirely in the open so long as it is kept walled off from disciplinary proceedings by the Department. The ACLU of Southern California calls on the City Council to deliver the degree of openness that has been promised; it is what this City needs to trust the investigative process and to begin to heal.”

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