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Jun 2015
Officers' Union Says "Proactive Policing" May Decline as Result of Ford Decision

Some LAPD officers have told a union official they are less likely to pursue proactive policing as a result of the police commission ruling the Ezell Ford shooting was "out of policy," according to the president of the officers union.

"This is a tough decision for the officers on the street now," said Craig Lally, longtime LAPD lieutenant who now serves as president of the LA Police Protective League.

"I've gotten a lot of calls since this decision," said Lally. "And they're really scared about doing their job right now, doing proactive police work," Lally said during an interview.

"I get a lot of calls that the officers basically tell me they're going to roll up their windows, they're going to answer the box -- the radio calls -- and they're just going to go from call to call... and do their job. But other than that, they're just going to shut down. They're not going to do any proactive police work. That's what they tell me."

In a video he recorded at LAPD headquarters, which has since been leaked to YouTube, Chief Charlie Beck urges his officers to continue to work hard, and promises he is looking out for their interests.

"You have my support, you have the support of the mayor, you have the support of the vast majority of the people of Los Angeles," Beck said. "Build on that support. Do things right. Continue to do them the right way. And we will continue to have that support."

"I know this was a tough decision for (the commission) to make, and I know it's a difficult thing for you to think about as you go out and risk your lives every day," Beck also said. He has yet to comment on whether he will discipline the officer found to have acted outside of policy.

The video has since been criticized by Patrice Cullors, founder of BlackLivesMatter, for not acknowledging his department is in trouble, or saying what needs to be fixed.

Tuesday's landmark ruling was not based solely on the standard of whether an officer perceived an imminent threat to his life or others. One officer did preceive such a threat in the moments before the fatal shooting of Ford, the LAPD commission found. But looking earlier in the encounter, the commission saw insufficient grounds to attempt to detain Ford, then tactical errors in the physical approach of grabbing Ford's shoulder from behind, from which ensued wrestling on the ground.

The 43-page report by the Office of Inspector General referred to the two officers only by the initials "A" and "B," though the department previously had identified them as Sharlton Wampler, a 13-year veteran, and Antonio Villegas, with eight years on the department.

Ford was trying to pull Wampler's sidearm out of its holster, Wampler told investigators, and at one point yelled to Villegas, "Shoot him. You got to stop him."

Villegas fired twice. Wampler fired once with a backup revolver he kept in his protective vest, according to the report.

Consideration was given to the "totality of the circumstances," the report stated before rendering the Board's finding: "The deficient tactics used by Officer A, and the inappropriate detention of the Subject that led to the subsequent altercation, rendered the use of deadly force unreasonable and out of policy."

Officer perception of an imminent deadly threat has long been the standard for determining whether a use of deadly force was justifiable. But the actions that led to that life-or-death situation must also be considered, according to a ruling upheld in 2013 by the California Supreme Court in the case of Hayes v. County of San Diego.

Villegas was found to have made less serious tactical errors. The Board "found that, at the time he used deadly force, Officer B had an objectively reasonable belief that the Subject's actions presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. Officer B's pre-shooting conduct had not significantly contributed to the circumstances he then faced. Rather, Officer B was responding to assist Officer A. As such, the (Board) found Officer B's use of lethal force to be in policy."

Ford, 25, had a developmental disability and would often walk the streets at night near his family's South LA home, his mother Tritobia Ford has said.

The Inspector General's report also revealed what police had never previously disclosed: that what led the officers to approach Ford was a suspicion he had illegal narcotics.

The officers told investigators they intended to have a "consensual encounter," but when they approached, Ford walked away, and then bent over behind a bush. Wampler thought the man was trying to dispose of drugs, and it was there that Wampler grabbed Ford's shoulder in an attempt to handcuff him, the investigation concluded.

In his report, Chief Charlie Beck concluded that the actions of both officers appeared to be within policy.

Now that Beck has been overruled by the commission, he must consider discipline as serious as termination for Wampler.

"I respect the process and the decision made in this matter," reads in part a written statement from Beck released Tuesday evening.

In Lally's view, the crucial finding is that it was reasonable for the officers to perceive a deadly threat.

"I have all the confidence in the world the Chief will make the right call and there will be no discipline," Lally said.

Ford's mother said she believes department discipline is not enough and called on District Attorney Jackie Lacey to file criminal charges.

The matter is now under review, according to a statement released Wednesday by Lacey's office.

"Prosecutors are awaiting supplemental materials from the civil case involving Ford's death," it stated, referring to the wrongful death suit filed by Ford's family.

"The focus of the review is to determine whether the filing of criminal charges is warranted," read the statement. "When a decision is made, the public will be notified."

In contrast, department disciplinary decisions are considered personnel matters subject to privacy protections and routinely are not disclosed.



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