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).

Bad 🍏 Report

If you can pull yourself from the drama that is former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, we have an update for you in the case of Los Angeles Police Officer—or soon to be former Officer Richard Garcia.

When last we spoke about Officer Richard Garcia, I detailed for you how then 22-year-old Clinton Alford was allegedly riding his bike on Avalon Boulevard near 55th Street in South Los Angeles when undercover detectives approached him.  He thought he was being jacked for his bike and so he took off running.  The chase was on from there but Alford didn’t get very far because I’m told one officer managed to use his baton (in a very questionable way) to take him down in a most heinous fashion. As a couple of more officers joined in the fray, another officer rolled up, jumped out the car and kicked Alford right in the head as if he was kicking a field goal for the score. Alford continued to receive punches to his head, body blows by an officer using his elbow, all while he was lying motionless on the ground.

That officer was Newton Division’s own Richard Garcia who at the time was a ten-year veteran of the Department working in the Parole Compliance Unit. He allegedly hasn’t worked in the field since the incident became public. We’ll come back to this later.

With much fanfare, in April 2015, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced filing felony assault under the color of authority criminal charges on Garcia, charges that could have resulted in three years in prison for Garcia. Could have. (People v. Richard Garcia, BA435794)

What D.A. Lacey didn’t come back and tell the good people of Los Angeles was that on May 26, 2016 her office allowed Garcia to quietly plead to one felony count of PC 149 (assault under color of authority) with his sentencing stayed for one year so that he could complete 300 hours of community service and make a donation to an organization that services victims of crime or a similar organization. At the end of that year, Garcia will be allowed to withdraw his plea, plead to a misdemeanor count of PC 149 and be placed on two years probation. Garcia is also ordered to stay away from his victim Mr. Alford and remain free of any new arrests or convictions during this time period.

If Garcia fails to comply he will be sentenced to the felony violation of PC 149 which is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or both.

Side note.  This is the same District Attorney who refused to offer Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine Abdullah, who was charged with felony attempted lynching, the same opportunity leaving her stuck with a felony conviction unless it’s overturned on appeal. I’m just saying.

Lacey didn’t hold a press conference or send out the town’s heralds to announce any of this. Shady. Nor did she make resignation a mandatory part of Garcia’s sentencing. Also shady.

Alford’s attorney Caree Harper told me, “L.A. Deputy DA Oscar Plescencia worked very close with Mr. Garcia’s attorney and did not make attempts to keep us in the loop with the case.  The sentencing has been dragged out to allow Mr. Garcia time to complete terms of his plea deal so that he can withdraw the felony guilty plea and enter a plea to a misdemeanor lesser charge at that time.  A misdemeanor allows him to keep his job. A convicted felon should not be allowed to keep his position as an officer at the LAPD regardless if he earns a misdemeanor or not, and Chief Beck should see to it.”

Speaking of Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. I’m told that Garcia is headed for a board of rights disciplinary hearing where he will be judged for his actions by two command officers and one civilian. As Beck has said before, he only send officers to board of rights hearings he wants to see terminated. So for those who care to make sure this bad apple never returns to the field as a sworn Los Angeles police officer—there’s hope.

Still, if Beck and Lacey wanted to send the message that they meant business in weeding out the bad apples they would have made resignation a mandatory part of Garcia plea deal.

But it’s not over yet. What about that video?

The Los Angeles Police Commission has since sided with Beck and found that Garcia and a second officer violated the Department’s use of force policies during the Oct. 16 arrest. Remember, there was more than one officer involved in the Alford incident.

Quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Beck said he had viewed the video of the incident and concluded “that the force used was not reasonable, given Alford’s limited and unapparent resistance,” according to the report.

Alford via his attorney Caree Harper is suing the Department for violating his civil rights—as he should.

Both Beck, D.A. Lacey’s office and the City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office worked overtime to make sure that the video has never been made public.

According to the Times, Beck put the hiding of the video from the public off on D.A. Lacey saying she “has been very, very clear that she does not want that video out there.” Releasing the footage before the officer’s trial, Beck said, could taint the jury pool or “otherwise interfere” with the case.

“My desire here is justice,” Beck told reporters. “I know that there are other things that could be met by the release of the video…. But I want to get justice. And I think that’s what this city deserves.”

Well the case is OVER pretrial. Garcia pled, was convicted and has now been sentenced. Release the damn video.

The City of Los Angeles needs to get out of the business of trying to hide the evidence of abuse and misconduct committed by police officers. It didn’t work too well for Chicago and it’s what feeds the constant suspicion and mistrust of the police from the community they serve. According to Beck and Lacey’s logic, now that Garcia’s case is pretty much over, that video should be made public.

Oh so you can see the video but the public who foots the bill for all of the lawsuits that arise from the conduct carried out on the video can’t? GTFOH.

We’ll keep you posted on the state of the Alford video as his attorney Caree Harper is working feverishly to get it released to the public. As she should.

Lacey, meanwhile, breezed through her reelection last June running unopposed subsequently wining without the need to campaign or have a November runoff.

Questions, comments or concerns?

Oscar Plascencia
Deputy District Attorney
(213) 974-5054
(213) 974-3888
OPlascen@da.lacounty.gov