Top LAPD Officers Disciplined for Use of Force at Rally
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
LOS ANGELES, May 7 -- Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton demoted one top officer and reassigned another Monday, the department's first act of punishment after police used batons and rubber bullets on immigration-rights protesters last week.
At a City Hall news conference, Bratton said a two-star deputy chief, Cayler "Lee" Carter Jr., and his second-in-command, Louis Gray, were the ranking officers at MacArthur Park on May 1, when officers swept through the park swinging batons and firing rubber bullets indiscriminately. Carter has been moved down a rank in the department and has been told to stay home from work indefinitely. Gray has been reassigned within the department.
"As chief of the department, I have to be comfortable with the leadership team I have around me," Bratton said. "This is not a witch hunt."
The trouble began at the end of a day of peaceful street protests, attended by about 30,000 people. Thirty to 40 demonstrators began taunting police and throwing rocks and water bottles at them, officials said. Police in riot gear responded by pushing the group into nearby MacArthur Park, where hundreds of protesters were gathered, along with a handful of reporters.
News crews filmed helmeted officers shoving to the ground a Telemundo reporter in a suit and tie as he spoke to the cameras, along with unarmed and bleeding demonstrators.
Seven members of the news media were injured, along with at least three demonstrators and eight police officers. Several of the injured have filed lawsuits against the city. There were nine arrests, none of which were related to the larger disturbance.
Police said afterward that they had ordered the crowd to disperse, but only in English and from a loud, hovering helicopter. Many of the demonstrators spoke only Spanish.
The police department has announced that it will conduct two internal investigations of the May 1 incident, and the department's Office of the Inspector General will conduct a third. The FBI has also begun an inquiry.
Bratton has apologized for the department's behavior and said he is "embarrassed." He said about 60 of the department's most-experienced officers, who were involved in the incident, will be taken off the street pending the investigations.
"I feel comfortable apologizing," Bratton said. "Things were done that shouldn't have been done."
Footage, broadcast nationally, of police striking unarmed demonstrators stirred painful memories in Los Angeles of past police intimidation and public relations disasters. The incident took place just days after the 15th anniversary of riots in South Central Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of officers who were videotaped beating motorist Rodney King.
In 2000, Los Angeles police also used force against demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention. The city eventually paid $4.1 million in settlements to those injured.
Police have since created a protocol for crowd control to keep officers from firing on peaceful demonstrators and to create a safe area for news media. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa acknowledged last week that those rules were not followed.