Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Postby admin » Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:20 am

by American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
© 1969 The Institute of Modern Legal Thought, Inc., 323 W. Fifth Street, Los Angeles, California 90013
First Printing March, 1969




Table of Contents:

1. The Centers
2. The Victims
3. The Complaints
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Re: Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Postby admin » Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:27 am



We gratefully acknowledge grants from the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Inc.; research assistants furnished by the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council; and the work of Albert McKenzie, who prepared the statistical tabulations; Richard Eiden; Jay Warner; Donald Cronk; Luke Ellis; Mrs. Ronald (Sandra) Musser; and Erik Lerner.

The interviews were conducted by Arthur Garcia, director of the East Los Angeles Police Practices Center; Harold Hart-Nibbrig, former director of the Watts Police Practices Center, now a law student at the University of California at Los Angeles; Mrs. Norman (Shirley) Rose, director of the Westside Police Practices Center; and Richard Posner, a volunteer staff member of the Westside Center.

The project was coordinated by Laurence R. Sperber, staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

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Re: Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Postby admin » Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:42 am



This report is the product of more than two years of intensive study and service in a very important aspect of civic affairs: police-community relations. It documents beyond doubt the existence and nature of police malpractice in the Los Angeles metropolitan area (principally by members of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles county Sheriff's Department).

It describes the present single-purpose procedure by which citizen complaints against police officers are received, investigated and resolved -- single-purpose in that police officials are interested only, for reasons of internal discipline, in determining the guilt or innocence of the officer against whom a complaint has been lodged. The citizen who complains gets neither consideration nor satisfaction from this procedure.

At the same time, the report also exposes the complete absence in present local police procedures of redress to the individual citizen who is subjected to police malpractice and the lack of accountability of the police to the entire community.

Members of the ACLU are as concerned as any other group of citizens that the laws be speedily, properly, and effectively enforced. We recognize -- and sympathize with -- the difficulties and dangers inherent in the duties of the police. We "support our local police" fully, up to the point at which senseless and intolerable over-enforcement and private punishment enter the picture. No civilized society can permit its police to victimize its citizens.


We do not say that all police officers offend, but neither can we any longer suspect that all complainants are lying.

When the police insulate themselves from the public, when they refuse to account to the citizens they serve, when -- in the name of esprit de corps -- they conceal their malpractices from public review, they compound the difficulties and dangers of their work while weakening respect and support of the citizenry. No amount of sloganeering or superficial community relations programming can correct this flaw.

Many remedies are needed for the problems which beset police service in an urban setting. Better methods of recruiting young officers, more intensive psychological screening of these recruits, longer periods of classroom training with refresher courses for veteran officers, improved human relations instruction, lateral promotion into police service of specialists and greater use of civilians in those service functions which do not require sworn personnel, better understanding of the law, its function, and the meaning of court decisions -- all these are avenues for improved police performance. This report concerns itself with one other remedy: an improved method for ventilating complaints.

The ACLU urges that both the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners and the Los Angeles county sheriff institute a procedure whereby a citizen who has a substantive complaint against a police officer or deputy sheriff may request and receive a public hearing of his complaint, with opportunity himself or through his counsel to present witnesses on his behalf and to cross-examine the accused officer and his witnesses, with the full final accounting to the complainant made public.

There is nothing really remarkable about this proposal: it is only a restatement of what the Los Angeles police commission says it will do, but has never done. Legal authority for the commission already exists; it remains only for the commissioners to assert their leadership.

Until that is done, one can foresee only a worsening relationship between law enforcement and the community. Mutual distrust, even hate and fear, can only make the task of the police that much more difficult.

Eason Monroe
Executive Director,
American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
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Re: Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Postby admin » Fri Jul 25, 2014 1:19 am


1. The Centers

The first of the American Civil Liberties Union's Police Practices Complaint Centers was opened in Watts in July, 1966, eleven months after the riots which destroyed the image of Los Angeles as a city of enlightened race relations and added a new word to the American vocabulary.

The concept of an office in the ghetto was first formulated by Mrs. Henry Schroerluke, then involved in the newly-inaugurated Watts Happening Coffee House. Talking to the young people who visited the coffee house, Mrs. Schroerluke realized that the problem of police practices in the Negro ghetto was as pressing as unemployment, long recognized as a daily frustration of the undereducated, idle men in the community.

The decision to open an office one-half block from the gutted "Charcoal Alley" was based on the fact that victims of police malpractice had to be sought out. Many or even most would not complain -- no matter how severely abused -- unless they had confidence in the agencies of government charged with investigating complaints against the police. That trust was missing. Short of confidence in official agencies, trust in a community-oriented office was the only substitute.

Furthermore, once the police practices centers had gained the trust of the community -- more easily accomplished by a ghetto office than one "downtown" -- the center directors could serve as advocates for those victimized by police abuse of authority.

The advocates' role of the directors, and the directors' identification with the community were the two most important factors: lacking faith in official complaint channels, and, in any event, unwilling to lay their grievance before the same police who had abused them, complainants would not step forward unless they could rely upon the moral -- and often, the only -- support of people from their own community.

With some five years of lobbying for a police review board behind it, and more than forty years dealing generally with abuses of police power in Southern California, the ACLU had no illusions that the opening of an office in the Negro ghetto would immediately solve the problem of police malpractice.

Malpractice exists in the ghettos and barrios of Los Angeles. The amount is unknown, estimates varying with the objectivity and experience of the observers, but to some extent, the rate of police malpractice is a constant. Some percentage of all police contacts with citizens will result in police abuse of authority. [1]

Efforts by the ACLU of Southern California and of other agencies have had no discernible effect upon official handling of complaints. The police still investigate the police; the widely noted "brother officer" concept has not been dispelled. [2]

Complaints of citizens against police officers in the County of Los Angeles' forty-eight law enforcement agencies are officially shrouded in terse form letters, in repeated refusals to grant 'public hearings, in investigations of one policeman's actions by another policeman, in refusals to release information about investigations, and in unyielding resistance to public review of departmental actions.

Theoretically, all complaints are investigated, sometimes by the "accused" officer's own superiors, sometimes by the internal investigative staff of the department. The results of these investigations are then forwarded to ranking officers in the department who review the case. If a complaint is found to have merit, the officer may be summarily punished with a light sentence. If the complaint is substantial, the charge sufficiently grave, the officer may face more severe punishment and request a departmental "trial," rather than submit to summary discipline.

In the City of Los Angeles, whose internal discipline system is the national model, this Board of Rights trial only incidentally involves the original complainant. The department assumes the role of prosecutor, and the complainant becomes merely a witness in the case presented by the department against the officer. The complainant's attorney, if he has one, may not cross-examine other witnesses nor in any other way act as an advocate for his client.

These departmental trials are purportedly open to the public. In practice, they are closed, ostensibly at the request of the "defendant" officer. The results are unpublicized beyond the department except in terse monthly memoranda circulated to a handful of elected city officials. (The department claims copies are made available to the press, but no printed evidence of this has appeared.)

The Los Angeles procedure, much copied by police departments around the country, is distinctly at odds with the recommendation of a task force of the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice:

Such procedures should include, as is now the practice in most departments, a hearing before a trial board unless the department is so small that the chief of police can himself conduct the hearing. If a board is convened, its members should be carefully screened for impartiality and lack of prejudice. The hearing should be open to the public; the complainant should have subpoena powers, be represented by counsel, and be able to see the investigative report if they [sic] so desire; there should be opportunity for cross-examination by both the officer and the complainant; if desired by either party. a transcript should be made; and the decision should be prompt -- probably no more than a month, except in unusual cases, after a complaint is filed. The trial board should render an opinion containing findings of all important facts and explaining its reasoning. [3]

The task force's recommendations were made with the specific intent of providing a public forum at which the full details of a complaint might be aired; publicity, in the opinion of the President's Commission, was the sole method of insuring accountability.

Once the decision on a complaint has been made, the complainant should be notified of the decision and the basis for it. And the public should have access to the facts of the case and the nature of the decision. Unless the public has access to reliable information, it is likely to assume the worst. On the other hand, if complainants are told of the disposition, "they would know that their complaint was not thrown in the wastebasket." [4]

Significantly, the "model" Los Angeles Police Department does not devote any great effort to make known results of its disciplinary proceedings, even though its idealized schematic flow-chart of the handling of citizens' complaints was considered an ideal for other departments by consultants to the President's Commission. [5]

This refusal to publish widely the results of citizen complaint investigations apparently is not based on a professional or technical reason. The San Mateo Sheriff's Department routinely notifies "the NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, or other appropriate 'social action groups that might reasonably be expected to have an interest' in citizen complaints, and these groups are kept informed as the investigation proceeds." [6] Similarly, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department will also notify "social action" groups if the complainant requests it be done.


In other respects, the Los Angeles Police Department's system is the standard for other departments in the county -- and for many across the country. The department officially claims a complaint may be filed in a variety of offices, a token of the department's willingness to provide redress. But the wide access is a sham. Would-be complainants are wary of local stationhouses and have rarely any idea of the other offices or agencies where a complaint may be lodged. Those who do know are still denied "third party" intervention.

Whether they are filed with the police commission itself, at the station, with elected city officials or the district attorney, all complaints of abuse by Los Angeles police officers are automatically routed to the Internal Affairs Division, the department's internal investigative arm. (The office of the United States Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, both of which might more actively oversee local police, do little in this vein so as not to jeopardize delicate relations with departments in Los Angeles county.)

Internal Affairs, in turn, may forward complaints to the officer's precinct, to be investigated and weighed there. The most severe, or politically important complaints are retained for investigation by Internal Affairs' staff.

Based upon that investigation, the thoroughness of which is questionable at best, a disciplinary action against an offending officer may be inaugurated by the department. (Criminal prosecutions of officers who have overstepped their legal authority are virtually unknown; the district attorney too must rely heavily upon the goodwill of local police, a goodwill likely to be endangered if dirty linen is aired in public.)

The investigation, however thorough it may be, results in a terse letter: either the complaint has been sustained and appropriate action taken, or the complaint has not been sustained.

What that disciplinary action may be the complainant is not told. The results of the investigation -- as well as the charges lodged against the officer -- are simply not revealed either to the complainant or to the public. [7]

When a complaint is not sustained, the complainant is not told why, is offered no chance to rebut, and is even denied the report of investigating officers. He must take it upon faith alone that the investigation was impartial, and his complaint given serious consideration. [8]

Such a system is hardly calculated to inspire the confidence of those victimized by police. Indeed, the complaint procedure is intent upon maintaining internal departmental discipline, not in providing redress of a grievance. The system is more concerned with departmental morale than with community relations. [9]

The result of these secretive investigations has not been to the advantage of the police. A complainant who is not even told of the discipline meted out to an offending policeman is not likely to be satisfied by a two-paragraph form letter.

Your complaint of misconduct by a member of this department in connection with the death of Henry Pacheco has been reviewed by the Board of Police Commissioners.

The Board has also reviewed the findings of the investigation of this matter; and it has been determined that the officer acted lawfully in attempting to apprehend the decedent, whom he had cause to believe had committed a robbery. [10]

Two opaque paragraphs cannot explain adequately the death of a 17-year old boy, shot by a Los Angeles policeman, to members of a minority community which has come to call the police "pigs," and to believe that even homicide can be excused.

In Los Angeles county, and particularly with the Los Angeles Police Department, "A ... source of Negro hostility to police is the almost total lack of effective channels for redress of complaints against police conduct." [11]

Two years before that comment by the Kerner Commission, the Los Angeles system had been found wanting by the Governor's Commission on the Los Angeles Riots. The McCone Commission concluded in 1965:

A strained relationship such as we have observed as existing between the police and the Negro community can be relieved only if the citizen knows that he will be fairly and properly treated, that his complaints of police misconduct will be heard and investigated. and that, if justified. disciplinary action will be taken against the offending officer. [12]

In the three years since the release of the McCone Commission report, changes have been made in the Los Angeles Police Department: A deputy chief has been named to supervise community relations activities, and an increasing number of officers have made efforts to create attitudes within the department which will help to eliminate police misconduct. While the department's own self-improvement effort may yet bear fruit, as indicated in the work of the police practices centers, it does not seem possible to observe any favorable results at this time.

One thing that has not been substantially changed is the practice followed by the Los Angeles Police Department in the handling of complaints of police misconduct. Critics partisan and impartial believe that these informal practices and official procedures must be greatly modified and improved before the mutual distrust can be eased by the department's community relations program. In any event, a substantial portion of those in the community who know anything of the community relations effort believe it is still largely geared to impersonal public relations activities, and that the department has not yet found an effective way to confront the gap between the police and the minority groups that the department is supposedly serving.

The department has steadily maintained that police malpractice, and, more specifically, police brutality is relatively infrequent. Police spokesmen point to departmental records of the investigations by the Internal Affairs Division and disciplinary actions taken as proof of the department's determination to root out even the small amount which concededly exists.

Contending that police investigations and discipline are even-handed, and not unduly prejudiced in favor of uniformed personnel, spokesmen have claimed that approximately 40 percent of all complaints against officers are sustained, and the officers punished accordingly. In 1965, 445 of 979 complaints were sustained; in 1966, 415 of 953; and in 1967, 391 of 1016. [13]

These figures are for all complaints received by Internal Affairs regardless of the source. In actuality, there is a marked discrepancy in the rate of complaints sustained for those which originate from within the department, and those which come from aggrieved civilians.

Two kinds of complaints would appear to be based in large part on mutually exclusive categories: complaints of excessive force from civilians; and complaints of neglect of duty from departmental superiors. In the last three years, the rate of sustained complaints between these two categories has significantly varied. (See Table 1.)

In 1965, the department received 231 complaints of the use of excessive force, and sustained 12 -- 5.2 percent. That same year, there were 326 complaints of neglect of duty, a charge which could be made only by those who understood departmental regulations -- members of the force Of these internal complaints, 81.2 percent were sustained.



By 1967, complaints of excessive force, presumably from civilians, totalled 369; 11.4 percent were sustained. Meanwhile 192 or 79.9 percent of the 241 neglect-of-duty complaints were sustained.

These widely skewed percentages are only slightly reduced when the rates are compared to those of all complaints sustained. In 1967, Internal Affairs handled 1016 complaints, 391 (39 percent) of which were sustained. At the same time, only 10.7 percent of those sustained were complaints of excessive force, though these were approximately 37 percent of all complaints handled. Meanwhile, 49 percent of the complaints sustained were for neglect of duty, though such charges were only 24 percent of the total number of complaints handled. (See Table II.)

For whatever reasons, complaints involving internal departmental discipline are more likely to be sustained than are complaints of police use of excessive force. Moreover, punishments meted out to offending officers are comparatively light when the violation is one of physical abuse. [14]

For the people in minority communities, already lacking faith in the equality of law enforcement, these figures can hardly be reassuring. Despite departmental protestations as to the fairness and thoroughness of investigations, deprived of any participation in the actual investigation, wary at best of the police, the victim of malpractice can barely hide the bitterness born of frustration.

To a great extent, the first police practices center was opened in the hope it could help ease the bitterness of ghetto dwellers, even if the center could offer only a sympathetic ear. There was no guarantee offered by the center that it could gain vindication for the complainants; the director could, in fact, act only as an expediter of complaints, making certain that the complainant was directed to the proper office to file his complaint and that he was not turned aside by local desk sergeants.

This minimal assistance -- aside from that provided by ACLU volunteer attorneys who undertook to defend in the courts victims of police abuse of authority -- were it to ease the bitterness, might at the same time relieve the hostility of minority group members to the police. That, in turn, might help avert another Watts, even as it aided day-to-day law enforcement. [15]

Furthermore, the centers might serve as a constant prod for the police to reform their internal investigation systems, giving for the first time serious attention to citizens' complaints. The director would become an advocate for those whose complaints he took, and, in time, might become persuasive.

The first office, opened in predominantly Negro Watts in July, 1966, was followed by similar centers in East Los Angeles' Mexican-American barrio and the Venice community with its variegated Negro, Mexican-American and hippie population.


In no small measure, the three offices have become a part of the black and brown communities they serve, accepted by the residents at first cautiously, and then more openly. The office in East Los Angeles has offered space to a welfare rights organization; the former director of the Watts office -- now attending law school -- was a member of the Black Congress' Board of Directors; the Venice office has close ties with that community's self-help group, The Organizers; the directors of the East Los Angeles and Watts offices have been asked to be spokesmen for their communities in hearings before the Los Angeles City Council.

This acceptance has aided the work of the centers; the number and rate of complaints taken has increased steadily as more people have come to realize that the police practices offices are a permanent community resource.

This then is a report on the first two years of the Police Practices Complaint Centers.
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Re: Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Postby admin » Fri Jul 25, 2014 2:50 am


2. The Victims

Their stories have a dreary sameness. They were coming home from a movie, or attending a party at a friend's home. The first contact with the police was hostile, the officers wary or openly angry.

In one way or another, the complainants commit the unwritten crime of "contempt of cop," challenging the authority or actions of the police. Sometimes they ask an officer for his badge number, or protest being frisked. Sometimes they refuse to let officers into their home, demanding to see a search warrant. Sometimes they are flippant, or somehow disrespectful to the officer.

They end up, almost inevitably, in custody, their hands handcuffed behind them. Often when they ask the charges, the arresting officer concedes he doesn't know, but adds, "We'll think of something." They do, more often than not charging the complainants with resisting arrest, or interference with an officer -- crimes committed only after police arrive.

Some are eventually exonerated of the criminal charges, either with dismissals prior to going into court, by dismissals arranged by their legal counsel in exchange for a waiver of the arrestee's right to sue the city or county, or by not guilty findings.

The complainant though is never completely exonerated. His arrest record remains, permanently on file to bar him from many jobs. He may have posted bail, most often through a bondsman, and will have paid the 10 percent bondsman's fee. If his car was impounded, he will also be charged an impound fee and storage rates.

Less frequently, he will immediately retain an attorney -- most of the police practice centers' complainants cannot afford private counsel, many are distrustful of the public defender's office.

If he has seen a doctor, those bills too must be met. The sum total can run into hundreds of dollars, in effect, a penalty imposed not by the courts, but by the police decision to make an arrest in the first place.

Theoretically, the falsely arrested, or exonerated victim would have recourse in the civil courts. In practice, he does not: attorneys know such cases are difficult to win and are reluctant to take them; the victims rarely can afford the investigator's fees and the court costs of depositions; often too, the victims have prior criminal records, records which would tend to denigrate their claims in the eyes of the jury.

Timely redress is not to be obtained by court action: two or three years of proceedings are the normal time required to resolve a civil suit against the police -- hardly ready redress. (One such suit handled by ACLU volunteer counsel was finally resolved in favor of the complainant five years after the incident of police malpractice, and involved two appeals on procedural matters.) [1]

Theoretically too, the district attorney can prosecute the offending officers: false imprisonment is a crime in California; the use of force beyond that necessary to effect an arrest is a battery at least, and may well be an assault with a deadly weapon. In practice, the district attorney of Los Angeles county has failed to prosecute. (The last such remembered prosecution occurred in 1952 when a group of officers was tried for assault on prisoners in the Los Angeles city jail.) Neither is there any record in recent years of the Grand Jury returning an indictment against a police officer for excessive force or false arrest in the line or duty. [2]

Those who might wish to complain to police agencies most often do not know where to go. City Hall is a perplexity across town, staffed with cold-toned clerks and secretaries. The local station is a place to be avoided; too many grim stories are told by friends and neighbors about what goes on there.

The victims then are left without redress, even when they are innocent of wrongdoing.

Understandably, they are bitter, and frustrated, and angry -- feelings made clear in these representative cases and interviews.

The Fernandez [i] brothers, 20 and 29, had fallen asleep in the car parked in front of their mother's home on April 7, 1968. They were awakened by two Los Angeles police officers, one of whom grabbed the younger brother and dragged him without explanation from the vehicle. The older brother, a glazer, told the police practices center: "All of a sudden I was awakened by a hit on the head .... The officer who I believe struck me on the head then handcuffed me and threw me into the squad car. The officers then grabbed my brother. I told them he wasn't a dog, so for them not to treat him like one. One officer then told me to shut up, and struck me in the stomach."

The two were booked as drunks. On May 1, the charges against them were dismissed.

A. About two weeks after you filed the complaint I received a letter stating that my complaint would be investigated, then later an officer came to my home and questioned me.

Q. Have you heard from the police commission since that time?

A. No.

Q. So, you don't know what happened to your complaint?

A. That's correct.

Q. Did you know of any other place besides this office where you could file a complaint against the police?

A. No, I never knew that there was a place like this -- where you could complain.

Q. Have you ever heard of the police commission before this?

A. No.

Q. Did you know that you could file a complaint with Internal Affairs of the LAPD?

A. I never heard of Internal Affairs before you told me.

Q. Didn't you know that you could file a complaint at the local stations?

A. I figured that they would probably take complaints but it seems silly filing a complaint with the police when it is against them.

Q. Would you feel free or safe in going to the local police station to complain?

A. Not now.

Q. Are you still waiting for an answer from the police commission?

A. Well, it's been a long time, I think they've forgot about it by now.

Q. How did you feel about the police before this incident happened to you?

A. Well, I just thought they were just doing their job. I didn't know they treat people like that and get away with it.

Q. How do you feel about the police now that this happened to you?

A. Well, I feel that they're human like everybody else but there are some that let the authority go to their head.

Q. If you went to court and it was your word against the police officers who do you think the judge or jury would believe?

A. They would go along with the police.

It was two in the morning of April 20, 1968, when the 52-year-old truck driver finally pulled into the garage behind his home after taking his daughter to the airport.

"I heard a car out on the street in front of my home. I went out to investigate because in the past we've had trouble with car thieves. As 1 reached the front yard 1 saw two guys speed away in a '54 Chevy.

"I also saw two undercover police officers checking a home [a few doors away] so 1 waited till they came by my way so that I could tell them about the '54 Chevy. (I knew that they were undercover police officers because they had broken my son's hand during February when they were making an arrest, only to later find out they had made a mistake ... )

"When the officers reached my home they immediately jumped from their car and grabbed my arms, twisted them behind my back and searched me. As they were roughing me up, 1 was trying to explain that 1 wanted to tell them about the suspicious car but they kept telling me to shut up and not tell them what to do.

"I was finally allowed to show my J.D. and after the officers saw it, they told me that they didn't like to see people on the streets at that time ...

"All I'm interested in is that these officers leave me and my family alone. These same officers have broken my son's hand, they've called my other son a punk, they continuously put the spotlight on my home when they drive by, and now they have roughed me up."

The harassed truck driver was not arrested. His complaint to the Los Angeles Police Department was denied summarily.

The 19-year-old girl, a member of the militant Brown Berets, was arrested at 3 a.m. on June 23, 1968, after police apparently answered a complaint about excessive noise at a party. One officer was allegedly assaulted by a guest at the party, and police made a number of arrests.

The girl and a companion fled, but were arrested in an adjoining yard. The girl was booked as an escapee from jail (she had never been arrested before), and for assault on an officer. Her case has not been tried.


Q. During the latter part of June [1968] you were arrested by the LAPD and charged with battery on a police officer. Has your opinion of the police changed since this incident with them?

A. Definitely.

Q. Why?

A. Well, before I used to have respect for them and now that they have arrested me for nothing when I wasn't even involved-- They're a bunch of liars.

Q. Why do you say that?

A. Because when we went to court the police lied.

Q. Why did you come to the Police Practices Complaint Center?

A. I needed help.

Q. If we would not have been able to provide you with an attorney, would you have been able to hire one?

A. No.

Q. Did you tell any of your friends about what happened to you?

A. Yes. I told everybody.

Q. What did the people say about it?

A. They thought that it was unbelievable.

Q. They didn't believe you?

A. Yes, most of the people, believed me, but I don't think they'll be real believers until it happens to them.

Q. Did any of the people tell you about incidents they had with the police?

A. Yes.

Q. Could you give me an example?

A. My brother was mistreated by the police and some of the kids in the neighborhood have also been beaten.

Q. What happened to your brother?

A. He was sprayed with Mace.

Q. What was he charged with?

A. Nothing. He wasn't even taken to court.

Q. Why did they spray him with Mace?

A. Because the police have the power to do anything they want and get away with it.

Q. Did your brother file a complaint at the station?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because they probably just file their complaints away.

Q. What percentage of the officers here in East LA, in your opinion, abuse people?

A. Ninety-nine percent.

Q. You believe it's that high?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you think the problem is? What can the police do to improve relations between themselves and the community?

A. Respect is a two-way street; in order to get respect you must also give it too. If they are not going to respect the kids and continue to call them punks then they can never expect the kids to respect them as police officers ...

Q. Did you know that there are community relations officers both at Hollenbeck Station and at the sheriffs station?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know what these officers do?

A. They come to meetings in the community and just listen but they seldom take an active role.

Q. What do you think their role should be?

A. They should come out to the community and be willing to deal with all segments -- the liberal and militant groups -- and not only go visit with senior citizens or coordinating councils and harp on "crime in the streets" ... Something has to be done now because the kids are not going to wait any longer.

Q. Have you had any problem with the police since this last incident?

A. Yes. I was picked up for curfew.

Q. How old are you?

A. Twenty.

Q. Then why did the police arrest you for curfew?

A. Well, they weren't going to arrest me at first, but when they looked in my purse and found a brown beret they decided to arrest me. I also didn't have an I.D. When they saw the brown beret they started making fun of me.

Q. But, they didn't physically mistreat you, did they?

A. They put the handcuffs on me, real tight. The sheriffs also told me that I could run down here and say they raped me.

Q. You were booked on curfew?

A. No, they called my mother and when she told them I was of age the sheriffs changed the charge to loitering.

Q. Were you loitering?

A. No, I was walking home.

Q. Who were you with?

A. No one. I was by myself.

Q. Did the sheriffs take you to court?

A. No, the charge was dropped.

The 19-year old teacher's assistant and her sister had followed the police car to Los Angeles' Ramparts Division. "We walked in," she told the complaint center, "and asked why our cousin was arrested, and asked what we could do to get him out, and how we could file a complaint against the police."

The desk officer's "attitude changed at the last question, and he told us to go outside and wait because he didn't have time for us." Instead, the girl sat down on a bench inside the station until an injured officer placed her under arrest, apparently believing her one uf his assailants during an incident earlier in the day. She was booked for assault with a deadly weapon, a charge subsequently reduced to assault on an officer. Bailed out on $1,250 bail, she is now awaiting trial.

Q. Has this incident changed your attitude toward the police?

A. Yes ... Before this I was going to junior college to become a policewoman and when people told me about police brutality I didn't believe it. When we went to court I was shocked that the police could get on the witness stand and lie. I have lost all respect for the police.

Q. Now that this has happened to you, would you be willing to help the police investigate a crime?

A. Yes, but only to see that they do an honest job. I wouldn't want other people to go through what I went through.

Q. Did you tell any of your friends about this incident?

A. Yes ... They believed me, but my friends found it pretty shocking.

Q. Have you had any problem with the police since this incident?

A. Yes. The police got smart with us. Once I was wearing my brown beret and an officer gave me the finger.

Q. Are you satisfied with the way the center has handled your case?

A. Oh yes.

Q. Are you satisfied with the attorney that has been provided? Do you think he is doing a good job?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. What would you have done if the center could not have helped you?

A. I don't know.

Q. Would you have gone to the public defender?

A. No, that would be the last thing I would have done.

Q. Why?

A. I've seen the way they operate and it doesn't matter either way to them if you win or lose.

Q. Have you ever heard of the police commission?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. What do you know about it?

A. I've just heard about it. I don't know what it is.

Q. Have you ever heard about the community relations officer?

A. Yes, I have visited with them.

Q. What do you know about them?

A. They're phonies.

Q. How would you compare the sheriff's department and the LAPD?

A. They're all the same.

Q. How do your friends feel about the sheriff's deputies in East LA?

A. They hate them because deputies are always mistreating them. Many of the people are afraid of the sheriff and I don't think they should be, since the sheriffs are supposed to protect you.

Q. Are they there to protect you?

A. No.

Called to settle a domestic quarrel, the Los Angeles police officers ultimately arrested both the husband and wife on February 2, 1967. The man fled, but was recaptured, a witness reporting the officers beat him. In her statement to the center, the wife claimed her injured husband asked police to take him to a hospital. They refused. At the station, the woman was jerked from the squad car, leaving her husband behind her. As she entered the building, she turned to see an officer repeatedly kicking her husband who was sprawled on his face, half out of the squad car. Three hours later, the woman was told her husband had been pronounced dead at a local hospital.

A coroner's inquest determined the man had died an "accidental death," the result of liver lacerations and internal bleeding. The wife filed a claim for $100,000 damages with the City of Los Angeles, but was summarily denied. A civil suit is pending.


Q. Do you understand what is presently happening to your case here?

A. The lawyer is filing a law suit. I don't know too much about these things, but it's in the lawyer's hands and I trust him.

Q. Were you satisfied with the way the center handled your complaint?

A. Yes.

Q. If the center wasn't here, where would you have gone to get someone to help you?

A. I would have gone to some other place. The reason I came here is because a friend told me about it.

Q. Did you tell any of your friends about your problem?

A. Yes.

A. They said they were sorry it had to happen, and that it has happened to too many people.

Q. Did any of your friends tell you about any problem they had with the police?

A. Yes, one friend said that when she had called the police they came and began beating and pushing people before they started asking questions. This was the same thing that happened to me. My husband and I were arguing, so I called the police. When they came, they started beating my husband.

Q. Has this incident changed your attitude toward the police?

A. Sometimes I think they're doing their duty, but sometimes they use brutality and they're not supposed to do that.

Q. What would you do if you had another complaint?

A. I would be afraid to complain to the police again. I don't want to call the police for nothing.

Q. You and your husband were taken to the local station and you claim that you saw an officer kicking your husband after he was handcuffed and lying on the floor. Later you found out he was dead. Now did you ever hear from the police again? Did they write you a letter explaining what happened? Did someone go to your home?

A. No, I never heard from the police after that day.

Q. Do you feel the police owe you an explanation?

A. Well, no, what can they do about it now after he's dead? I just want them to leave me alone.

Claiming they were investigating a disturbing-the-peace call across the street, the two Los Angeles police officers walked up onto the porch of the Morales home shortly past midnight OD August 18, 1967. Told that the four people in the home were making too much noise, Francisco Gonzalez explained the celebration was breaking up -- he had to leave for college in Mexico in the morning -- and "that we had the right to express ourselves."

One of the officers asked, "Who are you?"

Gonzalez replied, "That isn't the question. Don't we have freedom of speech?"

Gonzalez' statement to the East Los Angeles Police Practices Center continued, "I had a glass of cognac in my hand and the officer pulled my hand and asked what I had in the glass. When he pulled my arm he spilled the cognac on both of us.

"I told him he shouldn't have done that. The Anglo officer pulled me and told me to go to the police car. I did. Near the car, the officer handcuffed me, and then punched me in the stomach and kicked me in the buttocks. I was then thrown into the car.

"All the people who had been in the house [three others] witnessed the incident and protested ... When we were in the car I asked him if the beating that he gave me made him feel good.

"We drove away and the officer stopped the car at the corner of First Street and Mott Street. Before he stopped I had told him that he was going to pay for what he done and I guess that is why he stopped. The officer turned around in his seat and socked me three times in the face. I was so mad that I asked him if that was the best he had.

"He got out and pulled me out of the car and threw me on the sidewalk. He started kicking me in the stomach, chest and shoulders.

"I think I heard the Mexican officer tell him, 'That's enough.'"

At Hollenbeck Station, Gonzalez was dragged from the car by the handcuffs, and twice thrown to the pavement. He was eventually booked for assault on a police officer, and released two hours later on bail of $276.00.

On October 27, 1967, Gonzalez was found not guilty of the criminal charge of assaulting an officer. Ten days later, he received a letter from the captain commanding the Internal Affairs Division:

The concerned officer and his partner stated that only necessary force was used in order to acquire and maintain custody of you. When you were alighting from the police vehicle you kicked at the officer, lost your balance and fell, at which time you sustained injuries to your face and shoulder.

Despite the statements of four witnesses to the first confrontation, despite the exoneration in court which could only have come about because the arresting officers' story was not credited by the jury, despite medical records of Gonzalez' injuries, the department still managed to find his complaint unjustified.

It started with an exchange of shoves between a striker and a non-striker. Two Los Angeles police officers on duty at the picket line separated the two, the non-striking truck driver, John Green, telling them, "I'm going. You don't have to push me."

Without warning, he was struck from behind repeatedly by the two officers in the presence of four witnesses. The non-striker staggered away, bleeding, until the police officers drove up in their squad car and offered to take him to a hospital. Green refused, then was handcuffed and placed in the rear of the police car.

Treated first in the hospital -- 10 stitches were taken to close a scalp wound -- Green was then booked for disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. Defended by an ACLU volunteer attorney, he was ultimately cleared of the resisting count, but found guilty and fined $65 for disturbing the peace.

Q. What would you do if the police were to assault you again?

A. First of all, I would come back to the ACLU to see if they could help because they came through for me this last time. But I'll tell you one thing, if it did happen again I wouldn't be in LA for too much longer. It's not a healthy city to live in.

Q. In your case you asked us not to file a complaint with the Board of Police Commissioners. Why not?

A. Well, my wife told me that if we would file a complaint that it would take too long and that it was no use fighting city hall because you just don't win.

Q. You don't believe they would find in your favor?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because you just can't beat them when they investigate themselves.

Q. Who told you about the Police Practices Complaint Center?

A. Well, when I told my friend that I needed help he told me about the center. 1 never knew there was something like this.

Q. What is your opinion of the police now?

A. Well, like 1 said before I don't think all the police are like that but some of these young police officers, you give them a gun, a badge and a nightstick and they think they're God on the street. No one is right except them.

Q. Have you ever had any other problem with the police?

A. No.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add to this statement?

A. Not really, except that some of these officers should act like humans instead of animals.

The baby shower at the Patrick home had lasted into the early morning hours of February 11, 1968. It ended when a family quarrel resulted in a phone call to the Los Angeles Police Department.


Four officers pushed their way into the family home then ordered the men in the room to stand up. One of the brothers, a 26-year-old Vietnam veteran, was hauled to his feet, quickly frisked, then pushed to the floor. When he swore at the officers, he was placed under arrest.

A younger sister, one of six witnesses, protested the arrest, trying to explain; she was arrested too. Both were placed in the back seat of a police car, where, they claim, they were struck and choked by arresting officers.

The two were booked for assaulting an officer, then released on $1,250 bail. Their criminal cases are pending.

Q. Have you ever heard about the police commission?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. Why didn't you go to the police commission instead of coming to the complaint center?

A. I heard that all the commission does is give you a big whitewash. A person filing a complaint with them never reaches the commissioners; you have to deal with the secretary of the secretary, and besides, nothing ever comes of it anyway.

Q. Why didn't you file your complaint at the local station?

A. I was called several times to go down there, but I didn't feel safe or free to talk, especially in a police station. I figured that they would be getting my story to see how they could use it on me.

Q. Why didn't you feel safe?

A. Because the officers that beat my sister and I were from that station.

Q. What do you think about the help you received here at the complaint center?

A. Well, the attorney that was provided for me by ACLU is very good. He has spent a lot of time on my case and I think he is doing everything he can. I can see that ACLU is really trying to help the chicanos.

Q. If the ACLU wouldn't have been able to provide you with an attorney, would you have been able to hire one?

A. I'm afraid not. My sister and I would have had to go with the public defender. They're overloaded with cases and I don't think I would be receiving the same help as I would from a private attorney.

Q. How did you feel about the police before this incident took place?

A. It didn't come to me as a surprise because the general attitude of my friends and people that I've talked to in the past is that the LAPD's policy is beat and shoot and then ask questions later. The only thing that surprised me is it happened to me.

Q. Did you tell your friends about this incident you had with the police.

A. Yes I did and I also told my relatives.

Q. What did they think about it?

A. They believed me and said that it was unfortunate that it had to happen to me. They told me that some officers are perros [dogs].

Q. If you had another problem with the police would you handle your case in a different manner?

A. No, I would still come here.

Q. What do you think of the public defender?

A. Well, like I said before, I think they have too many people to take care of, but I would imagine that defenders like to win cases too. Too often though clients are asked to cop out and get a break. I guess it would scare anybody to go to court, talk with the public defender for five minutes and he tells you to cop out.

The 29-year old meatpacker, David Ferraro, was arrested by Los Angeles county sheriff's deputies while attending a wedding dance at El Monte Legion Stadium on July 6, 1968. The deputies had entered the building to arrest one of the party-goers, took by mistake a friend of the complainant, and then arrested Ferraro when he questioned the officers.


Q. When you saw the sheriffs mistreating the arrestee you questioned the officers and were also arrested. You were charged with interfering. Did you interfere?

A. No, I only asked why they were arresting him because he wasn't doing anything.

Q. Can you explain what happened?

A: The officers grabbed me, threw me against the car, placed the handcuffs on me and threw me into the car. An onlooker asked the officers why I was being treated like that and why I was being arrested. The police answered by 'cuffing him, then spraying him with Mace.

Q. You came to this office along with the man who was sprayed with Mace. What happened when you went to court?

A. Both charges were dismissed against me and the charge of interfering was dismissed against him. He went to trial on his other charge of inciting a riot and was acquitted.

Q. Have you ever been mistreated by the police before?

A. No, this was the first time.

Q. What made you come to the complaint center?

A. Well, I heard about it from the Committee for Justice in El Monte. I couldn't afford an attorney so I came to see if you could help me.

Q. What would you have done if we wouldn't have been able to get an attorney to take your case?

A. I guess I would have had to try to beat it with the public defender.

Q. Did you tell any of your friends about this incident?

A. Oh yes, I told many people. I also told them not to go to El Monte any more.

Q. Did your friends believe you when you told them about this incident?

A. Yes, they believed me; it came out in the newspaper.

Q. Did any of your friends tell you about any experience they had with the police?

A. Oh yes, I've heard bad stories about the officers from Whittier, El Monte, Pico Rivera and San Gabriel. On this incident you had much community support from the people in El Monte. A complaint was filed with El Monte's police department and also with the district attorney. Did you ever get a response?

A. I heard it was still pending.

Q. Did an investigator ever question you on your complaint?

A. No, but the police chief sent us a letter explaining that he was conducting an investigation.

Q. If there is an investigation going on and they do find the officers in the wrong, do you think they will be punished?

A. No, the department has to defend their men now because the officers have already said too many lies in court.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Well, in court, the officers were saying everything that was the opposite. Not even the jury was believing them.

Q. You say the jury didn't believe the officers. How do you know that?

A. Well, because the way the juror would look at us and at the officers and later after the charges were dismissed some of the jurors shook my hand and told me that if it hadn't been dismissed they would have found me not guilty.

Q. If you ever again had any problem with the police department what would you do?

A. I'd come here to the ACLU ... You guys really fought for me, getting a lawyer and helping me out when I had no place to go.

Q. Did this incident change your opinion of the police in any way?

A. Yes, before I used to believe in them but not any more.

Q. Would you be willing to help the police investigate a crime?

A. No, I wouldn't help them.

Q. Why is that?

A. They might think the opposite and get me for interfering.

Early in the morning of August 26, 1967, Wilshire Division police pursued a motorcyclist through the near-empty streets of central Los Angeles. During the high-speed chase, two police cars crashed together, moments before the fleeing motorcyclist overturned at a residential intersection.


Mrs. Mary Willis, watching a late-night television program, heard the noise and went to the window of her apartment in time to see two Los Angeles police officers bringing a man into the light of warning flares laid out in the street. The man appeared to be bleeding, she told the Watts Police Practices Center.

"More police cars arrived. The officers got out of their cars. They held the man while three other officers beat him with their fists near a police car. The one holding him would periodically pound his head on the police car. The others took turns beating him."

As a crowd gathered on the sidewalk, the police stopped beating the man. Mrs. Willis took a pen and small tablet, then went outside. She had taken down the license numbers of five Los Angeles police cars when an officer spotted her.

Frightened, she started for the door of her apartment as the officer came towards her saying, "The lady needs assistance." Two other policemen joined him.

"One of the officers flashed a light on the tablet in her hand and grabbed it," the center report continues. "He said, 'The lady is drunk. The lady is a Black Muslim.' Other officers repeated this loudly. All three officers grabbed her and handcuffed her." Her tablet was taken from her, and with it the list of license numbers.

"Mr. Willis shouted from the door (he was not dressed), 'What are you all doing out there? That's my wife. She lives here.'

"The officers ran Mrs. Willis across the street to a police car. While pushing her in they hurt her leg.

"One of the officers specified that a certain officer should ride in the rear with her. The officer named was a Negro. Enroute to the station, a Caucasian officer asked her what was her name. She answered she would say her name when she got an attorney. The officer told her, 'We're just going to put you in jail.'

"She answered, 'My husband will call an attorney.' The Caucasian officer said, 'I heard that man yelling from the window. I bet there were ten men living in that place and you're the only woman.'

"He then turned to the Negro officer and asked, 'How many men do you think live in that apartment with her?' The Negro officer didn't answer.

"The Caucasian officer then said, 'You're one of those Black Muslims and you hate all police. Your bail is certainly going to be high.' He then said, 'You're going to be booked for attacking three officers.'

"The Negro officer said, 'Yes, she needs to see a psychiatrist too. She sees things nobody else sees but her.'"

At the station, she was held in an interview room for 30 minutes while the Negro officer taunted her. "We know you see a psychiatrist. We know you need help. You see things that others don't see. How long have you been going to a psychiatrist?"

Ostensibly to transport her to Sybil Brand Institute (the women's jail), the police bundled her into a squad car. Instead, they drove aimlessly about, apparently undecided what to do. Mrs. Willis had not been booked -- her husband was unable later to locate her at the station since she had not been formally processed -- and finally the officers decided to take her home.

She was deposited in front of her home, and the handcuffs finally taken off, three and one-half hours after she had tried to record the license numbers of the police cars.

On October 18, 1967, Mrs. Willis filed a complaint with the police commission. Police investigators contacted her on November 20. Four months later, Mrs. Willis received a letter signed by the president of the Board of Police Commissioners blandly reporting:

"The investigation disclosed that your temporary detention was proper in that you pushed a police officer and thereby unnecessarily interfered in a police action. The investigation does not sustain your allegations of misconduct by the officers in their contact with you."

In effect the letter was charging Mrs. Willis, seven months after the incident, with violating a state law, despite the fact that officers at the scene had not charged her with a crime. There was no explanation of the officer's apparent failure to enforce the law. Nor is there a provision in state law for "temporary detention."

Stopped for reckless driving, the 17-year-old high school student could not show his driver's license, accidentally left at home. Apparently this angered the sheriff's deputy, who grabbed the youth, slammed him against the hood of the car, and rapped him twice in the ribs with a flashlight.

Taken to jail, the youth was held overnight, then released to his father's custody the next morning, after being denied the right to make a phone call.

When the youth filed a complaint with the department, he was informed by letter, "A thorough investigation has been made and there is no indication of misconduct by employees of this Department."

Q. Were you satisfied with the way the ACLU Police Practices Complaint Center processed your complaint?

A. Yes, I think they did as much as they could, but I would have liked to file a lawsuit against the sheriffs.

Q. Do you really feel everything was done for you here?

A. Yes I do. My complaint not being found in my favor I think was because of the sheriffs not wanting to admit guilt.

Q. Before coming to the complaint center did you go to any other agency?

A. No, a friend told us about the center so we came here.

Q. Were you satisfied with the way the sheriff's department investigated and found in your case?

A. No, I wasn't, because the investigator came to my house one day and that was it. The next thing I hear is that the complaint was not sustained.

Q. How long was it?

A. About two weeks after filing the complaint is when I first heard from the sheriff's department. An investigator questioned me, then returned later to get a medical information release authorization.

Q. When were you given the final findings of the sheriff's investigation.

A. It wasn't until a total of about seven months later. The letter I received from the sheriffs was very simple and it didn't give much of an explanation of their findings.

Q. How did you feel about the East LA sheriffs or police in general before this incident happened?

A. I just felt that they had a job to do and they were doing it ... This incident really opened my eyes. The way the sheriffs went about this I didn't expect.

Q. How do you feel about the police now?

A. Not as certain about them as I was. Before I respected them quite a bit but now I don't have too much respect for them. I think that in order to get respect you must also give it.

Q. If you could help the police investigate a crime, would you?

A. I don't think so -- well, if there were other witnesses or people that would assist in a particular situation maybe I would also help. I don't know for sure. I don't want to get involved with the police especially after what happened to me.

Q. Did you tell any of your friends about what happened to you?

A. Yes, and, besides, one of my friends saw what happened. Other people that I told sympathized and explained that they also had bad experiences with the police where they felt it was unnecessary police action. One of my friends was pushed through a window by the police.

Q. What was the reaction of your friends?

A. They would always ask me what happened to my complaint. They told me I was wasting my time trying to fight city hall.

Q. Do you think that the sheriff's department could have done more in this matter?

A. Yes, I would figure that the least thing they could have done is have some type of a hearing where I could meet the officer face to face. I haven't seen the officer since the incident. After the investigator came to my house that was it. For what little the investigator did he took too long.

Q. If something like this happened to you again what would you do?

A. I would think twice about just filing a complaint because I really don't think the police want or try to find any dirt. I would take more extreme measures next time.

The father of the 17-year-old youth was also interviewed at the police practices complaint center.


Q. Do you think everything was done to secure a complete investigation?

A. The sheriff's department, I believe, did not conduct a thorough investigation or we weren't given enough information on the final answer.... There was no mention of the medical information presented.

Q. The investigator being a member of the sheriff's department, do you think that his relationship would influence the outcome of the investigation?

A. Sure it would ....

Q. Do you think seven months is enough time to investigate a complaint?

A. For the little they done and for the few lines they wrote, they took way too long.

Q. Do you feel that the center could have done more for your son?

A. This office has done enough in helping my son, and I am grateful for that help. What I do ask is that police begin to respect all people and that we do the same.

Q. How much money did you have to put out of your own pocket as a result of your son's encounter with the sheriff's officers?

A. I had to pay $90.00 for medical expenses, $17.00 for towing away my son's car and more than $25.00 for the day I lost at work. All these expenses and I get a four-line explanation from the sheriffs.



i. This and all other names of complainants are pseudonyms.
Site Admin
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Re: Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Postby admin » Fri Jul 25, 2014 5:35 am


3. The Complaints

The three police practices complaint centers have in a total of 72 "office-months" taken 734 complaints of police abuses of their legal authority. The rate of complaints received at the offices has varied from month to month, though there has been a gradual increase in the totals. (See Chart I, next page.)

The complaint rate too reflects the vagaries of operation of the offices. The Watts center was opened with substantial publicity, and the first director was uncritical in accepting complaints -- this accounting for the unmatched number of complaints.

Beginning in January, 1967, the three centers settled down with more or less permanent staffs and procedures. (The Watts office in particular was unsettled, lacking a director for November, 1966.) From that time forward, the complaint rates of the offices tended to level out, and to parallel each other. To some extent, the rate of complaints reflects the rate of police activity -- the more arrests made, the greater the number of complaints.

Chart I: Adult Felony Arrests by the Los Angeles Police and Malpractice Complaints

In the first months of operation in Watts, complaints were accepted uncritically, or virtually so, and forwarded to officials. The offices were, in theory, merely to assist complainants in filing complaints with the proper government agencies; such evaluation as was called for would be made by the authorities. This policy was changed to permit initial screening by first the director, and later by the ACLU's legal staff. Screening of complaints, coupled with investigation permitted, the offices to forward only those complaints which seemed to have merit on their face.

The rationale was one of establishing credibility for the offices with official agencies. If the complaints were of more substance, it was believed, they would receive more serious attention. In fact, there have been so few substantiated complaints that no meaningful evaluation of the policy change can be made.

Initial screening at the centers or by the ACLU's legal staff determined that in 134 of the 734 cases handled, there was no malpractice, or that police actions were warranted by the facts as the complainant related them. (Ten Venice cases did not involve police at all and have been excluded.) Forty-five files were incomplete, the complainant having decided to drop the matter; five files were transferred from one center to another, and new files opened. This left a balance of 540 cases analyzed in which there was substantial belief that police malpractice occurred.

There were 639 complainants in the 540 cases. In 82, there were two or more victims who related their grievance to the centers, a proportion which suggests that police malpractice is not entirely a covert business.

Men outnumbered women about four-to-one. (See Table I.) Well over half of those who complained and for whom ages were given on the complaint forms were between 17 and 25, this group the focus of the greatest attention by police, this age group too the one most responsible for crime. [1]

Because the three offices were deliberately opened in the heart of minority communities, Negroes and Mexican- Americans are a vast majority. Nonetheless, there were 118 "Anglos," that is, Caucasians other than Mexican- Americans. Negro complainants totalled 314, Mexican- Americans 174.

Unexpectedly, only 150 of the 376 complainants whose marital status is known were single. (The complaint forms do not ask the marital status of complainants; this information was derived from the statements or answers to other questions.) Thirty-seven were divorced, two widowed, leaving a balance of 176 married persons.

Table I: Sex, Age and Ethnic Background of Complainants

Table II: Law Enforcement Agencies Named by Complainants

The disproportion of married complainants may be an indication that those who do complain to the centers are persons who feel that they have some stake in the community -- marriage, a family, a home -- and are not completely alienated (anomie). The complainants then may not be an accurate sample of all those who believe themselves victimized by police, for it is generally held that single men, under 25 are the focus of most police activity, and the victims of most police malpractice.

This may still be true, the disproportion of married persons the result of unwillingness on the part of the completely unattached single men to bother to complain. Their complaints may be valid, but their apathy and disbelief in the value of filing complaints would tend to cause them to let the matter drop.

Officers representing twenty-five law enforcement agencies were named in the complaints taken. (See Table II.) The Los Angeles Police Department was named 453 times, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department 110. Only five other departments were cited more than five times: Santa Monica (11); the California Highway Patrol (9); Azusa (7); Culver City and Glendale (6 each).

The large number and percentage (70 percent) of LAPD citations reflects three factors: that agency is the most active in Los Angeles county, policing the largest city; all three offices are located within the city limits and are more accessible to residents of the city; the bulk of the county's minority group population -- presumably that group most victimized by the police --lives within the city.

That some departments are named infrequently or not at all cannot be taken as an indication that they are free of police malpractice, or that their complaint procedures are such that the services of the centers are not needed.

In those cases where it was determined by the centers that malpractice of some sort took place, 1,356 officers were actively involved, either physically abusing the complainant, making the arrest, or participating in the ostensibly illegal activity. (See Table III.) Most of these, 806, were not identified.

As of December 31, 1966, there were 12,646 sworn officers in Los Angeles county's 48 law enforcement agencies. Even allowing for the identification of a single officer involved in more than one incident, it would appear that approximately 10 percent of sworn law enforcement personnel have been identified as actively engaging in some form of police malpractice. Actually, the percentage may well be higher, for very few complaints are lodged against detectives and other plainclothesmen. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, has only 50 percent of its sworn personnel assigned to the Patrol Bureau, the members of which are the most frequently cited by complainants. [2]

In addition to the active officers, 613 others were cited by the complainants as being passive spectators to the malpractice. In effect, they are witnesses who will not tell departmental superiors, nor testify in court about the alleged malpractice.

Table III: Officers Cited by Complainants

Table IV: Witnesses to Alleged Malpractice (By Complainants)

The incidents took place in a variety of locations, 409 outdoors. But 126 took place in private homes, many of these actions involving illegal searches and seizures. Physical brutality was the most frequent complaint among the 15 I reports of malpractice in the jailor stationhouse, and the 64 instances when the malpractice took place in a police vehicle.

Of the 785 locations mentioned by complainants (some were victimized in more than one place), 365 took place outdoors, other than on the victims' own property. In most instances, these were on the city streets, often begun as a routine field interrogation. [3]

According to the complainants, the incidents took place most often at night, 375 between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. By comparison, 141 took place between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Generally, the later the hour of the day, the greater the number of incidents: 105 reportedly took place between 6 and 9 p.m.; 161 in the next three hours; 170 between midnight and 3 a.m.; and 39 between 3 and 6 a.m. This curve generally parallels police activity.

In the greatest number of cases, there were witnesses. Only 123 complainants had no one to support their statement. Another 154 could report only one witness, but 362 had two or more witnesses to corroborate their story. (See Table IV.) Some of these witnesses, however, were themselves arrested, and could not be considered independent or unbiased. The significant fact remains that malpractice is not, apparently, a furtive thing confined to the stationhouse where back room beatings were once commonplace. [4]

From the accumulated cases, it would appear that police malpractice occurs in some proportion to the frequency of police-citizen contacts. Most arrests are made at night, for example; most malpractice complainants report their brush occurred at night. Most police-citizen contact takes place in public; most of the reported cases of malpractice occurred in public. Most police patrols -- especially in the ghettos -- are by pairs of officers, with additional pairs answering radio calls if assistance is needed; most of the complainants mentioned that at least one active and one passive officer were involved. Police focus their attention on young men; the majority of complainants were young men.

In short, the cases gathered at the centers indicate that police malpractice in one or another form is a routine part of police work. How great a percentage of cases results in police abuse of authority is not known -- the centers cannot be presumed to get reports of all instances of malpractice. It is clear, however, from the reports surveyed, that police malpractice may occur at any time, and in any place, and apparently without the officers feeling any great fear of punishment despite the large number of police and civilian witnesses. [5]

Table V: Types of Malpractice Alleged

Table VI: Complainants and Arrest Charges Brought

The malpractice complained of varied from extreme physical abuse -- defined as two or more blows by a police officer on an unresisting civilian -- to harassment; many reported more than one abuse. The largest proportion of the complainants alleged physical mistreatment; there were 476 complaints from the 636 who gave statements to the centers. (See Table V.) In part, this disproportion may be a reflection of the fact that those who have been less grievously injured or inconvenienced are more willing to shrug the matter off. In part too, many people in the ghettos simply do not know their rights, assuming that police have a right, for example, to search their homes or automobiles without obtaining warrants or making arrests; assuming that police may legally do these things, victims do not complain.

Of those who complained of being hit unnecessarily (judging from the complaints, it would appear that those who do resist arrest and are struck as a result do not file complaints), 236 were injured seriously enough to require medical attention. Four complaints were filed by the next-of- kin of people shot by police; 11 persons had teeth broken; 23 had broken bones. The balance was sprayed with Mace, or bruised, or suffered lacerations sometimes requiring stitches.

A majority of the complainants were charged by police with crimes though the greatest number of police-citizen contacts do not result in arrests. This disparity, again, is best explained by the fact that apparently only the most aggrieved or most desperate victims of police abuse will overcome the sense of futility endemic in the ghettos or their bitter hostility to governmental agencies and take some action.

Of the 639 people who filed complaints at the three centers, 494 were faced with criminal prosecutions. (See Table VI.) Some had to contend with multiple charges, frequently a combination of three: disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and assault on an officer.

In all, 646 charges were entered against the 494 arrestees. Significantly, only 100 of these were felonies, that is, crimes deemed by the Penal Code to warrant prison sentences of a year or more. (Twenty-two of these felonies were possession of marijuana counts, a charge which police and jurists alike consider less grave, though it is, by law, a felony.)

Table VII: Disposition of Charges Brought* (All Cases)

Table VIII: Disposition of Charges Filed (ACLU-Furnished Counsel)

The largest number of crimes allegedly committed took place only after police arrived on the scene. In most cases, those arrested find themselves booked for no substantive crime (burglary, robbery, etc.) but only for "crimes" against police. [6] There were, of the 646 total charges lodged, 147 counts of assault on an officer, 68 of resisting arrest, and 50 with interfering with a police officer. Not uncommonly, those people who feel themselves unnecessarily stopped by police, or the victims of a roust or harassment will protest, and even resist; they are guilty of resisting arrest or assault on an officer. The fact that they may be guilty of these crimes does not, however, mitigate the fact that they were stopped originally for no law enforcement purpose.

Those who protest police interrogations, or who insist upon their rights run the risk of further criminal charges. If they are loud, or return verbal abuse with verbal abuse, they may be booked as drunks -- 72 were -- or for disturbing the peace (69 such charges).

Not all of these charges result in convictions, or even criminal complaints. Seventy-five of the charges for which the disposition was known were dropped by police. In 52 instances, charges were dismissed by the courts, and in 32 cases, defendants were found not guilty of the counts brought against them. (See Table VII.)

In all, 159 of the 445 counts for which the disposition is known were terminated with some form of complete exoneration. In view of the fact that so many of the "crimes" police allege ostensibly took place in the presence of arresting officers, this would appear to be a comparatively high exoneration rate. [7]

The filing of complaints with official sources could only be successful, the ACLU had learned, if alleged victims were cleared of all criminal charges arising from the incident. Found guilty, a complainant had little or no chance of successfully sustaining his complaint, even when the criminal charge did not excuse the malpractice. Authorities tended to equate guilt on a substantive criminal charge -- auto theft, for example -- with responsibility for the police use of excessive force.

Moreover, the arresting officers would file charges of resisting arrest or assault on a police officer so as to excuse the bruises or even hospitalization of a person they had arrested. To substantiate the complaint of brutality, it was necessary first to establish that the complainant was, indeed, an innocent victim.

To meet this requirement, the ACLU has provided attorneys for 100 persons who brought complaints of police malpractice to the centers after being arrested. These ACLU volunteer attorneys have substantially altered the usual results in cases such as these handled by other private attorneys or by the public defender. (See Table VIII.)


The 100 defendants faced a total of 148 charges ranging from vehicle code violations to assault on an officer, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of a ten-year prison sentence upon conviction.

The disposition of 31 of these charges is unknown; 20 are still pending, leaving a total of 97 known dispositions. In only 28 cases -- approximately 29 percent of the dispositions -- was the defendant guilty, either by plea or court conviction, or juvenile court finding. This compares favorably to the approximately 85 percent conviction rate which prosecutors maintain in California.

Eleven charges were dropped, to be replaced by (usually) lesser counts; six were disposed of with negotiated pleas of guilt to lesser offenses.

Twenty-six of the charges were never prosecuted by the city or district attorney on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to convict. Seventeen other charges were dismissed by the court after the prosecution's case was presented. Tn nine cases, jury or judge found the defendant not guilty. Approximately 52 percent of all charges ended with the exoneration of the defendant.

Significantly, the appearance of ACLU volunteer attorneys served to restrict the use of negotiated pleas, that is, deals privately made between defense and prosecution wherein the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for the state dropping the remaining counts. The negotiated plea is frequent in criminal courts, albeit little discussed in law school or the legal periodicals. [9] Only in the most severe cases, where the offer of a negotiated plea will keep a defendant from the state prison, will ACLU volunteer attorneys recommend that their clients "cop a plea."

A result is that charges unsuccessfully used to force bargained pleas will be lowered to what attorneys term "the lessor included offense," that is, a crime subsumed by a more serious charge. Assault becomes misdemeanor battery; riot becomes disorderly conduct or failure to disperse; assault on an officer is dropped to interfering with an officer. There were 11 such motions made by the prosecution, presumably to bring the charge into line with the actual evidence against a complainant.

In the "crimes-against-police" category -- the centers make a special effort to provide counsel when only these counts are lodged against complainants -- there is some difference in the percentage of cases which result in convictions. Forty-two percent of the charges were sustained by findings of guilt, pleas, pleas to a lessor count, or juvenile court petitions. Fifty-eight percent of the known dispositions ended with dismissal or exoneration of these "crimes" committed only after police arrive.

Table IX: Reasons for Failure to File Complaint ... _small.gif
Table X: Results of Complaints Filed with Official Agencies

Slightly less than 500 of the 639 total complainants were confronted with criminal charges at the time they came to the malpractice centers. Not all were provided with ACLU volunteer counsel; most secured private attorneys or were represented by the public defender. Whoever provided their defense, 253 complainants reported the outcome of their trials to the centers; significantly, 92 of these for whom the outcome is known were completely cleared of all charges. Again, this compares favorably with statewide conviction rates averaging about 85 percent.

The criminal defense is only the first step in helping complainants secure redress of their grievances. Two other actions remain: the filing of formal complaints with the law enforcement agency; and/or the filing of civil suit in either the state or the federal courts. The first is the responsibility of the directors of the centers, once the court case has been settled. The second is the responsibility of private counsel, retained by the victim. [10]

By September 1, 1968, the three offices had filed 165 formal complaints with law enforcement agencies. For a number of reasons, in 372 cases complaints were not filed. (See Table IX.)

In part, the failure to file complaints, especially in the first months of operation in Watts, was the responsibility of the centers where procedures had not been clarified, and policies not made formal. In part too, the large number of failures-to-file because the complainant failed to return or follow up his initial complaint is the responsibility of the center directors; in the first period of operation, the understaffed director of the Watts office in particular was unable to follow through.

It is significant -- and perhaps indicative of the attitude of those who do come to the centers -- that few complainants refused to file formal statements with law enforcement agencies because of fear. (It is widely believed that fear of retaliation -- real or imagined -- holds down the number of official complaints lodged.) It would appear that those who do complain to the centers are less afraid, or, having gone so far, believe that the filing of a formal complaint is no more a risk.

Table Xl: Complainants Cleared of Criminal Responsibility

The centers have filed a total of 165 complaints for as many victims of police malpractice: 128 with the LAPD, 24 with the sheriff, and 18 with various other agencies. In 84 cases, police investigators have found for the officers alleged to have committed the malpractice; in just six - all Los Angeles Police Department - have the complainants been sustained. (See Table X.) Forty-one complaints are still pending, some filed more than 18 months before the completion of this report. The disposition of 34 is unknown, largely the result of the Los Angeles Police Department's refusal to notify the centers of the department's findings. While the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department will forward carbon copies of correspondence to the centers, the LAPD's refusal makes difficult the problem of learning eventual outcomes; complainants move frequently in the ghettos and barrios, often have no telephones, and eventually choose to drop the matter as useless.

Of the 90 cases for which the finding is known, only six, or 6.6 percent, resulted in decisions favoring the complainant. In no case was the punishment made known to the victim.

Whatever the decision, it is not quickly reached. Of the six complaints sustained, the average time from filing of the complaint to the receipt of the department's letter of notification was 116 days, just four days short of four months. The longest time lapse was 208 days (from February 23 to September 19, 1967), the shortest 69 days (August 10 to October 18, 1967). The median or midpoint between shortest and longest periods was 94 days.

For those complaints which were not sustained, the time lapse from filing to notification was considerably shorter, 69 days. The longest period was 152 days, the shortest 22. The median was 73 days.

The six cases sustained did not involve a significantly greater number of witnesses and, in any event, the complainant submits the names of his witnesses when he files his complaint. Without access to departmental investigation files, it is impossible to determine just why it takes significantly longer to sustain complaints than it does to deny them.

However long the investigation may take, the evaluation of complaints in Los Angeles county is most gravely questioned by the outcome of complaints filed on behalf of those who are innocent of criminal responsibility.

There were 88 such complainants, either individuals who were not arrested in their confrontation with police (51), or who were subsequently cleared of all criminal charges lodged against them (37). Of these 88, 52 complained of physical abuse in some degree, 31 of verbal abuse, 18 of property destruction or illegal searches and seizures. (See Table XI.)

In 142 other instances, the victims chose not to file complaints, fearing retaliation in some cases, satisfied that they have been cleared of criminal charges and willing to let the matter rest.


Complaints were formally filed with law enforcement agencies on behalf of 88 exonerated arrestees: 75 with the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners; nine with the county sheriff; four with other departments. In 45 cases, the results of the police disposition are known. In only five instances has the agency found that its officers did overstep their legal authority. At the same time, these agencies have upheld the actions of the officers in 40 cases, despite the fact that in all 40 cases, the complainants were innocent of all criminal charges. In these instances at least, the police cannot explain away the overzealous acts of officers as necessary to make a legal arrest, to bring a criminal to bar. Neither will a conviction for disturbing the peace serve to mask a defendant's bruises. (Legally, there is no reason why they should, but the practical effect of a conviction on any charge is to validate whatever action the police may take.)

The significance of this 11 percent rate (5 of 45) of finding for the complainants is that it is so small. Not burdened by arrests, or better, for purposes of argument, validated by exonerations from a judge or jury, these complaints would seem to be most easily sustained. Forty-two of the 88 complainants had two or more witnesses to the police action; in view of the fact that in many cases the witnesses' accounts were responsible for exonerations at criminal trials, one might imagine they would be credible to police investigators as well. They are not.

Third party review -- a judge and jury -- resulted in clearing 37 people who subsequently filed departmental complaints; exoneration of the arrestees had the effect of criticizing the police, at least by implication. Despite this impartial weighing of the witnesses' statements as a precedent, police investigators are only slightly more inclined to find the officers at fault.

The complaints found to have merit by police included those of:

1) A 46-year-old Mexican-American called a "no good dirty, fuckin' liar" by one Los Angeles police officer, booked for auto burglary, bailed out after posting $2,750, then cleared of the felony charge when the district attorney declined to file against him in Superior Court. His complaint of abusive language was sustained, despite the absence of civilian witnesses, undoubtedly after the partner officer -- who was reportedly at odds with the arresting officer -- corroborated the complainant's statement.

2) A 20-year-old Mexican-American who protested when Los Angeles police officers walked into the midst of his backyard party, deliberately kicked over beer cans, and told the complainant, "Stop acting like an asshole." There were five witnesses.

3) An 18-year-old Mexican-American with a witness to the physical and verbal abuse he suffered at the hands of an off-duty Los Angeles policeman serving as a security officer at a local drive-in. The police commission absolved the officer of using derogatory language, but reported, "The investigation disclosed that he used improper tactics to maintain control of you following your arrest." This is the only person convicted who had his complaint sustained.


4) A husband and wife who complained that Los Angeles police did not respond promptly to repeated phone calls first to report their 7-year-old daughter was missing, and then to report she had been found with her clothes torn, possibly a victim of a sexual assault. Eight months after the complaint was filed, the department acknowledged a car had not been properly dispatched when the man and woman first called.

5) A 38-year-old Negro arrested by police for participating in a scuffle on the street, handcuffed, then thrown bodily against a cement wall, a parked car, a water fountain; then deliberately kicked in the side by a Negro Los Angeles policeman in front of two witnesses. Subsequently treated for his injuries at a hospital, the victim was then released.

6) A 29-year-old Mexican-American beaten by Los Angeles police officers who was treated for broken bones and twice underwent operations to drain excess fluid from his testicles. A civil suit is pending in this case.

They were the six whose complaints were sustained. Eighty-four others were denied. More than 370 victims, for one or another reason, did not file complaints.

And throughout the county there are hundreds of other victims of police abuse of authority who have never come to the three police practices center. For them the lack of redress, and the inevitable lack of faith in a system of justice is even more a grievance.
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Re: Law Enforcement: The Matter of Redress, by ACLU

Postby admin » Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:19 am



The Centers

1. On police malpractice in Los Angeles, see Ed Cray, The Big Blue Line (New York, 1966), passim; Day of Protest, Night of Violence (Los Angeles, 1967); "Police Malpractice and the Watts Riot, A Report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California," (process, 1965). In fact the perceived brutality is far more than documented cases would suggest. The former executive director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, John Buggs, told the California Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, "I don't believe there's any question at all but what the vast majority of the Negro population of this county believes that there is unequal administration of justice. I don't believe -- and this is a very broad statement and I realize it -- that I could find a thousand Negroes out of the 461,000 who would think otherwise." Buggs is quoted in the advisory committee's "Report on California: Police-Minority Group Relations" (Washington, 1963), p. 8. Buggs' claim is supported in part by Nathan E. Cohen, "Los Angeles Riot Study, Summary and Implications for Policy" (Institute of Government and Public Affairs, UCLA, process, 1967), pp. 11-12, expanding upon Walter J. Raine, "Los Angeles Riot Study, The Perception of Police Brutality in South Central Los Angeles" (Institute of Government and Public Affairs, UCLA, copyright 1967), passim; and by "A Report of Attitudes of Negroes in Various Cities," prepared by John F. Kraft, Inc., for the United States Senate Subcommittee on Executive Reorganization (mimeographed, 1967), pp. 23-26.

2. On the "brother officer" concept, see pp. iii-iv of the Los Angeles Police Department's Board of Rights Manual (1953) written by the late Chief of Police William H. Parker: "A strong fraternal feeling has always existed among policemen particularly within any given department. Many policemen will jeopardize their own positions to protect a brother officer. One of the principal reasons for policemen believing that they must 'stick together at any cost' is the prevalent opinion that the public is generally opposed to them personally. The protective belief is shared by many supervisors as well as the rank and file policemen." See also William A. Westley, "Violence and the Police," American Journal of Sociology, XLIX (1953), pp. 34- 41; James Q. Wilson, "Police Morale, Reform, and Citizen Respect: The Chicago Case," in David J. Bordua, ed., The Police: Six Sociological Essays (New York, 1967), pp. 138-39; and John H. McNamara, "Uncertainties in Police Work," ibid., p. 246.

3. Task Force Report: The Police (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1967), p. 197.

4. Ibid.

5. See "A National Survey of Police and Community Relations, A Report of a Research Study Submitted to the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice" (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1967), p. 225. In a letter to the ACLU of Southern California on October 18, 1967, then-President of the Board of Police Commissioners Frank G. Hathaway offered this explanation of the apparent discrepancy: "The Chart published in 'A National Survey of Police and Community Relations' does not indicate, nor does the Department allow that all dispositions be made 'public.' Persons or organizations other than the press, City officials, Department employees, and parties to complaints are not notified of dispositions. ¶ The Department did not consent to the publication of the subject chart nor were we notified of the intent to publish. Verbal and written explanations which accompanied the chart were not published; consequently, it is not complete in every detail. ¶ With the qualifications above, the chart appears to be accurate."

6. Task Force Report: The Police, op. cit., fn. 516.

7. On police secrecy as an integral part of departmental administration, see Arthur Niederhofer, Behind the Shield (New York, 1967), pp. 5,118,172,185; William A. Westley, "Secrecy and the Police," Social Forces, XXXIV (1956), pp. 254-257; Ed Cray, The Big Blue Line (New York, 1967), pp. 202-03; Jerome Skolnick, Justice Without Trial (New York, 1966), p. 14. As a function specifically in the handling of complaints in San Diego, see "The Police and the Community, Volume I, A Report of a Research Study Submitted to the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice," (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966), pp. 70, 172-75; in Philadelphia, ibid., Vol. II, pp. 199, 204; in Washington, D.C., in Report of the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966) pp. 222-23; and in New York City, Paul Chevigny, Police Power (New York, 1969), p. 82.

8. In none of the 106 complaints filed by the three police practices centers has the Board of Police Commissioners of Los Angeles exercised its legal authority to hold a public hearing on a civilian's complaint. In an unpublished paper on file in the Harvard College Law Library, Peter G. Barton finds the hearing process, "if one exists at all," an "area of dissatisfaction." See "Civilian Police Review Boards, Ombudsmen, and Things Like That," unpublished typescript "submitted to Professor Vorenberg in the Seminar on Issues in Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice ... April, 1968," p. 26. Barton relies heavily upon Beral and Sisk, "The Administration of Complaints by Civilians against the Police," Harvard Law Review, LXXVII (1964), pp. 449 ff.

9. See Jerome Skolnick, Justice Without Trial (New York, 1966), p. 234, describing the Oakland, California, system where "[i]nternal controls over policemen reinforce the importance of administrative and craft values over civil libertarian values." An untitled press release of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (Detroit, April 27, 1965), notes, "The reason given by the [Detroit] Police Department [for sustaining three civilian complaints] was that the officers had violated the police manual, rather than finding as the commission investigation showed that there was sufficient cause to believe that the civil rights of these individuals had been violated because of their race ... "

10. This is the full text of a letter from Elbert T. Hudson, president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, to Mrs. Mary B. Pacheco, January 11, 1967. See also Chevigny, op. cit., p. 81.

11. Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, reprint edition (New York: Bantam Books, 1967), p. 310.

12. Violence in the City -- An End or a Beginning? (Los Angeles: Jeffries Banknote Co., 1965), p. 31.

13. These and subsequent figures are drawn from the "Annual Report, Internal Affairs Division, Los Angeles Police Department" (process, 1965, 1966, 1967), at p. 14. Even police officers question the low number of findings for complainants. According to Deputy Chief Klug of Cincinnati, "The thing that bothers me is that police continue to receive huge numbers of complaints but there are only a few instances where the complainant is upheld. They can't be wrong that much -- and we can't be right that much." See Task Force Report, op. cit., p. 196, quoting The Washington Post, June 26, 1966.

14. The departmental memorandum to "All Commanders" from "Internal Affairs Division" regarding "personnel Complaint Investigations, November, 1968," one of the latest of these monthly reports available through private channels to the ACLU of Southern California, lists departmental reprimands issued to two officers who discharged service revolvers at a suspect in violation of departmental shooting policies. At the same time, an officer who was found sleeping while on jail duty was suspended for four days, and another who "during a five-month period cohabitated with a divorced woman in the residence in which her two minor children also resided" was suspended for 22 days.

15. Police are quick to state that community cooperation is the most important single factor in criminal investigation and crime prevention. See, for example, "Guide to Community Relations for Peace Officers" (State of California, Department of Justice, 1958), p. 20.

The Victims

1. See Lucero v. Donovan, 354 Fed Rep 2d 16 (1965), and the article by counsel in that case, Hillel Chodos, "Pleading Problems in Police Malpractice Cases," Law in Transition Quarterly, II (1965), pp. 158-178.

2. In the thirteen month period beginning January 1, 1968, and ending January 31, 1969, 60 Los Angeles police officers were punished for the use of excessive force, the use of "improper tactics" in handling prisoners (not otherwise defined), violations of departmental regulations on the discharge of firearms at fleeing suspects, and false arrest. They were penalized with punishments ranging from reprimands to removal from the force, according to the monthly memorandum to "All Commanders" from the LAPD's Internal Affairs Division regarding "Personnel Complaint Investigations." Records in the clerks' offices of the Municipal and Superior Courts indicate that only one of these men, a police sergeant, was subsequently prosecuted. (He had been off-duty at the time he became involved in a physical altercation with a male friend of his estranged wife, was charged with felonious assault, then pled "no contest" to misdemeanor assault. He was given a suspended ten-day sentence and six months probation by the court. The department handed him a 3D-day suspension.) There is no record of any on-duty offender being prosecuted, despite departmental findings of the use of excessive force (assault), "improper tactics" (assault or battery), or "shooting policy violations" (assault with a deadly weapon). Three officers were named twice in departmental records of punishment during this period. Among those not prosecuted were an officer removed from the department for the use of excessive force; three who fired their weapons or used them in a threatening manner while off duty and were thereupon removed from the force; two officers who assaulted two handcuffed prisoners and were suspended for 30 and 60 days; another who "cocked ... pointed revolver at juvenile in custody," suspended for 90 days; another who committed perjury in court, and permitted to resign from the department; and an officer who used "unnecessary force" on an arrestee and was suspended for 15 days.

The Complaints

1. For national crime statistics, see the summaries in The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1967), p. 44; and Uniform Crime Reports for the United States, 1967 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1968), p. 32. California's far more thorough and accurate statistics are reported annually in Crime & Delinquency in California (formerly Crime in California), published annually by the Bureau of Criminal Statistics, Department of Justice, Sacramento.

2. Statistics of police strength are from Crime and Delinquency in California, 1966, ibid., p. 301; and "Los Angeles Police Department 1966 Annual Report," (Los Angeles: LAPD, 1967), p. 7. About 20 percent of LAPD strength is in the Detective Bureau, the other large division with frequent community contact and primary criminal law enforcement duties.

3. Field interrogations have been severely questioned as an abrasive factor in police-community relations, and as a law enforcement tool. See "The Police and the Community: The Dynamics of Their Relationship in a Changing Society," A Report Prepared for the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice by Joseph D. Lohman and Gordon E. Misner (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1966), passim. Sharply criticized by this report for the practice of random field interrogations, San Diego Chief of Police Wesley S. Sharp issued orders to restrict their use. See Ken Reich, "Report on Attitude of San Diego Police Creates Sharp Stir," Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1967, Pt. II, p. 1.

4. In the only other study of a body of police malpractice cases, Paul Chevigny, Police Power (New York: Pantheon, 1968), p. 73, notes "... [M]any incidents of the use of force by policemen bear an unfortunate resemblance to assaults by private citizens; they are hotheaded reactions to a real or imagined insult ... This is shown, if in no other way, by the fact that so many police abuses take place in front of a crowd of witnesses, and no real attempt is made to conceal the act until criminal charges are filed after it is over."

5. The police officer's security, at least in the case of the Los Angeles department, may be a result of the officer's anonymity. Badge numbers are hard to read, especially at night; moreover, contrary to public belief, badges are not permanently assigned to individual officers. Police in Los Angeles have been testing the use of nametags similar to those worn by sheriff's deputies, and in March, 1969, adopted them for all officers.

6. "A significant pattern which emerged was that in the 13 cases [of 22 in which the commission took sworn testimony] where the only charges seemed to be resisting arrest - the original reason for the arrest, if any, seemed not to appear when the person was booked," according to an unpublished "Report to John A. Love, Governor of Colorado, from the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Commission on "Discussion, Conclusions, and Recommendations Resulting from Hearings on Excessive Use of Force by Denver Police," (Denver, Colorado, 1964), p. 3. See also Cray, The Big Blue Line (New York: Coward-McCann, 1967), pp. 124-25.

7. In 1966, police in Los Angeles County released 31 percent of all those arrested for felonies. District attorneys refused to file on another 10 percent, and 4 percent were ultimately acquitted. See Crime and Delinquency in California, 1966, p. 32. Misdemeanor dispositions are not recorded, though these are the bulk of the charges the centers' clients face.

8. See Crime and Delinquency in California, p. 86, noting that in 1966 the Los Angeles district attorney's office secured convictions in 81.6 percent of the felony cases it handled.

9. In a one-month survey of Superior Court dispositions in Long Beach, California, the Los Angeles County public defender stated "that the Public Defender's Office pleaded 52 percent of its clients guilty at some stage in the proceedings in the Superior Court (as opposed to pleas by private counsel in 42 percent of their cases), however, 83 percent of the Public Defender's pleas were to a lessor charge than the original filing (as opposed to 73 .percent by private counsel)." Letter from Richard S. Buckley, Public Defender, to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, May 23, 1968, p. 7.

10. Victims of police malpractice have a difficult time securing attorneys willing to take on civil suits against law enforcement officers. See Cray, The Big Blue Line, pp. 211-12, for an explanation.


Photography and Photographic Design by William J. Warren Design
by Ed Cray

This book has been set in Times Roman, Helvetica Medium, and Eurostyle by Amsco Corporation and Photo-Typographies. It is printed in Gans Ink on seventy-pound text paper obtained from Sabin Robbins Paper Company, Los Angeles; and on eighty-pound Snoweave Cover obtained from La Salle Paper Company. The press work was done at Fashion Press, under the direction of Harold Mendelsohn, with binding by Dependable Folding and Binding Company. The production was under the supervision of Mrs. Abraham J. Falick of Navigator Press.
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