We’re not against the police. We’re not against the police department, but we are against police who commit misconduct (and those who help cover it up).
Every now and then I like to have a little fun–kind of like how Chief Charlie Beck did when he allowed me to be arrested the other night in downtown Los Angeles. The photo above is what I like to imagine is Beck’s expression when goes online and reads my latest blog about #myLAPD. Lol.
But getting down to business…
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, in theory, has 30 days to release the autopsy record of 25-year-old Ezell Ford who was shot and killed on Aug. 11 by officers from the Newton Area Division of the LAPD. Notice, I did say in theory.
The mandate (but really more of a request) that the autopsy report be released before year’s end came from Mayor Eric Garcetti who like Beck and 9th District Councilmember Curren Price Jr., are under pressure from the community for answers after the Ford, who was Black, was found to be unarmed and identified as being mentally ill. Witnesses said he was shot in the back while lying on the ground and complying with officer’s orders.
The police say that during an “investigative stop,” a struggle ensued in which Ford “turned, grabbed one of the officers.” After that, “they fell to the ground,” and Ford allegedly attempted to pull an officer’s handgun from its holster. The “partner officer then fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon” at Ford.
But here’s what you need to understand about police shootings that kill people involving the LAPD.
An autopsy report that involves a person who was shot to death is going to give you very basic information. Where the bullet went in and where it came out, if it did at all. The coroner only examines the ballistics and the point of entry and exit of the bullets.
Given family members statements that Ford had a history of mental illness the completed autopsy results could take longer because the coroner MIGHT try and see if they can prove that fact with their investigation by performing a brain tissue examination, conducting family history interviews, and looking at prior incidents related to his mental illness.
Unfortunately, the coroner does not determine if it was a bad shooting. No that’s the job of the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division, otherwise referred to as FID.
FID is responsible for the investigation of all incidents involving the use of deadly force by an LAPD officer.
FID conducts the entire investigation from ballistics, to the direction of the shooting, what type of weapon was used, the condition of the surroundings, witness interviews, forensic evidence, etc.
They follow this up with a complete walk through of the shooting with the officers involved, and in this case that would be officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas whom we first told you about back in August.
Oftentimes in a controversial highly publicized shooting there will be representatives from the District and City Attorney’s office and from the police union. Trust me that’s the case with this shooting.
The investigation will more than likely also be reviewed by the Department’s Use of Force unit who will review FID’s investigation, but only the part that pertains to the use of force utilized by the officer and not the legal or criminal aspect.
The FID will hand deliver the final investigation to Chief Beck who will ultimately decide what direction to go in. Beck will present the findings to the Police Commission. However, long before they ever get a hold of it a decision will have been made on the justification of the shooting by Beck. You can trust and believe that.
So at the end of the day all of this really falls on Chief Beck because he is really the one who has to judge the shooting—hence his unwillingness to have the autopsy report released. Dragging it out for as long as he can is in his best interest—especially if he is not going to call it a bad shooting.
I am almost sure that Chief Beck has seen the results of the autopsy and knows the direction of the FID’s investigation. He is after all the Chief of Police of the Los Angeles Police Department.
So while everyone is understandable awaiting the results and release of Ford’s autopsy record, that’s only tip of the iceberg.
Police Chief Beck, LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante and the Board of Police Commissioners will have the final say on whether it was a good or bad shooting (if you believe that there could ever be such a thing). They alone will verify whether the shooting fell within their own guidelines that mandate that use of force be “objectively reasonable.” Not some piece of paper from the Medical Examiner’s office. And that final decision on the shooting doesn’t have to come and probably won’t come when the autopsy report is released. Dragging this into 2015 as I am sure community activists and the Ford family are not going to drop the issue.
But in case you’re interested and I will assume that you are because you’re reading this—according to their website, Captain Robert A. Lopez is currently the Commanding Officer of the Department’s Force Investigation Division.
Captain Lopez, was promoted to the rank of Captain and assigned to Newton Patrol Division in May of 2010.
In addition, now seems like a good time to remind people that the Police Commission usually meets once a week on Tuesday at around 9:30 a.m. Chief Beck is usually in attendance. From what I am told there are usually plenty of seats available as the public, while they have a lot to say about the LAPD, rarely show up to put their concerns on the record. The way I figure it, there’s plenty of pressure to go around. Apply some there.
Now for my Angeleno’s anxiously awaiting this autopsy report, please don’t be surprised if it’s released just as night falls on December 24. I mean this is the LAPD we are talking about and because the more you know…