After all of the recent high profile cases where the initial reports of an incident did not tell the entire story, one would expect that politicians would not rush to judgment in a case that they know nothing about except for what they read in the Los Angeles Times. However, that was not the case for Councilmember Curren Price, who has apparently already passed judgment in the Clinton Alford case.
The Times story says that a Los Angeles police officer is being investigated by the department's Force Investigation and Internal Affairs divisions for allegedly using excessive force during the arrest of a drug possession suspect, Clinton Alford, in South Los Angeles last week. Citing "anonymous sources close to the investigation," the Times reported that a private company's surveillance camera captured images of the officer kicking the suspect in the head.
Councilmember Price said in a statement that he was "deeply disturbed to hear about this incident as our community is still reeling from recent incidents of excessive and even deadly force." He demanded that the LAPD "take every action necessary to ensure that these officers are held accountable for their actions."
Even more frustrating are the comments NOT made by Chief Beck. Beck was quick to comment on the investigation, stating "This investigation is ongoing and there is still much that needs to be done to determine the facts of this matter, but let me be very clear, any officer that is found to abuse the public is not welcome in this department, and we will apply whatever legal or administrative means necessary to insure the community's trust without exception." We all agree the investigation needs to happen, but it's disappointing that the Chief isn't reminding people to hold their judgement until all of the facts are known. Furthermore, where is his outrage about "police officials" in the department leaking information for a story that hasn't been verified by the Times? Quite frankly, what he doesn't say, speaks volumes to our membership.
Tyler Izen, President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, spoke with the Times reporter before the story was published; however his comments reminding that the public should not rush to judgment in this case and that all the officers have not even been interviewed yet, never made the story. Izen told the Times that the League wanted a quick and thorough investigation just like everyone else, because the officers are assigned home and that's not good for anyone.
Gary Fullerton, an attorney representing the officers, disputed accounts of the story and said that, "It's is my belief once everything is explained and all the nuances of the incident are understood, it will be clear the force the officers used was appropriate and necessary." Fullerton said the officers were responding to a detective's radio call for help in locating a robbery suspect when they spotted Alford and attempted to apprehend him. Alford turned out not to be the man the detective was pursuing, but the officers ended up arresting Alford for possession of cocaine, the attorney said.
We would expect that Councilmember Price and the community-at-large would be encouraged to know that the LAPD thoroughly investigates all allegations. We would also hope that Chief Beck and the community will balance their enthusiasm for the investigation with the commitment to due process. We've been in this situation before and everyone needs to be reminded that in many instances, a video alone does not hold all of the facts necessary to determine the truth.
Judging the officers actions and vilifying them in a rush to judgment based on partial information and an incomplete investigation is innappropriate, unfair and irresponsible. We urge everyone to allow the investigation to run its course without premature, inflammatory or condemning remarks. The facts will be revealed by interviewing the officers involved and reviewing ALL of the evidence - not just a single video - all of which may not provide the headline or instant judgment that a politician might desire, but will assist in determining the truth.
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