Wrists slaps for Los Angeles police officers who opened fire on two women

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck speaks at a news conference at LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Yesterday I praised Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck for bucking the wishes of some senior law enforcement officials with respect to the eight deputies who shot up a truck (and the surrounding neighborhood) during the Christopher Dorner manhunt last year. Beck found that the deputies did not act with the department’s policy. But I may have been hasty with the praise.

Last night the L.A. Times reported that in a message sent out on the department’s internal computer network, Beck wrote that he “found it to be very concerning officers fired before adequately identifying a threat; fired without adequately identifying a target and not adequately evaluating cross fire situations.” You would hope so. But “very concerning” looks to be as far as he’s willing to go. Again from the L.A. Times:

If Beck does discipline the officers, the penalties are expected to be warnings, written admonishments or similarly light punishments, the sources said.

His message is clear that the officers continue to have his support.

I have confidence in their abilities as LAPD officers to continue to do their jobs in the same capacity they had been assigned,” Beck said. “In the end, we as an organization can learn from this incident and from the individuals involved.”

In response to the chief’s message, Steve Soboroff, president of the police commission, which oversees the LAPD, expressed disappointment that Beck did not issue more severe penalties for the officers.

Soboroff acknowledged that the authority to discipline belongs to the chief, but said, “With that said, I would have expected more significant discipline for the actions of most of the officers in this incident. I trust that the training will be extensive and the Department and officers will move forward from this tragic incident.”

I can’t imagine that the L.A. Sheriff’s Department or the L.A. County Prosecutor would be as understanding if a citizen had made the same mistake.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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