Accusing Long Beach police of discrimination and corruption, the local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People announced Wednesday that it has asked the Los Angeles County district attorney and the County Grand Jury to investigate the department.
Frank Berry, a spokesman for the Long Beach NAACP chapter, charged that officers have harassed blacks and falsified reports to cover their actions.
But at a press conference in Los Angeles, Berry did not provide any specific examples of discrimination or corruption.
Berry said he did not want to release information because he wants to protect the confidentiality of people who are complaining to the NAACP. He said the organization received 23 complaints during the last five months of 1987.
"People are living in an intimidated situation," Berry said in an interview before the press conference. "It's illegal. It's unprofessional. It's unfair."
The NAACP, which has long accused the Police Department of discrimination, has been calling for the establishment of a civilian police review board in the city. Police are adamantly opposed to such a review panel, and the issue is expected to go before the City Council next week. Council members have already reacted skeptically to the proposal, and recently blasted a city advisory commission for suggesting that the commission act as the police review board.
Police Chief Lawrence Binkley called the NAACP announcement "political, and I really think it's dishonest" because leaders timed the press conference to fall only a few days before the council is to consider the review board issue.
"If they have complaints, they should bring them to me," Binkley said, adding that he has repeatedly asked the group's leaders to alert him to any cases of alleged police misconduct. But he said no complaints have been brought to him by the NAACP.
Binkley said he invites the district attorney and the grand jury to "come on over" and investigate. "We'll welcome them, have a cup of coffee." But once those investigations are over, Binkley said, "Will these demagogues (NAACP leaders) apologize to the police officers? . . . I predict they haven't the courage to do that."
Berry, in turn, called Binkley's remarks "political" and said NAACP members want more attention focused on their concerns.
"To this point, the City Council has not been willing to look at these problems, although lives have been lost," Berry contended. He was referring to several in-custody deaths last year involving Long Beach police. Department officials say five deaths occurred, and each one has been thoroughly investigated by the appropriate agencies and a civilian review would be unnecessary.