Police Chief Daryl F. Gates says a so-called "sting operation" recently mounted in Westwood Village by a black Hawthorne police sergeant in an effort to demonstrate that local lawmen harass minorities was "a crazy, crazy, stupid, idiotic act."
In a videotaped message to police officers throughout the city, Gates said that Sgt. Don Jackson, who heads an organization called Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, baited and harassed Los Angeles police officers when he brought a half dozen black youths, a video camera and "witnesses" to Westwood on Feb. 13.
Charging that the group included "known gang members," Gates declared that his officers "did the right thing" in making contact with the group and in subsequently arresting Jackson on suspicion of obstructing a police investigation.
Jackson "wanted to cause trouble (and) he did," Gates said in his first public comment on the incident.
Jackson, 29, who is currently on a stress disability leave, was arrested, authorities said, after officers ordered his group to move because they were allegedly blocking a sidewalk. The Los Angeles city attorney's office is awaiting further investigation by police before deciding whether to file charges against Jackson.
Late Monday, Jackson repeated charges that his "sting" proved that "the LAPD has been operating as a rogue elephant--stepping on both the good and the bad in its course to eliminate crime."
By branding the youths as gang members, Jackson said, Gates was "trying to detract from the real issue here, unless the LAPD is using mental telepathy to identify gang members.
"The fact is, each of these individuals were ordered to spread their feet out and squat like animals. My question is, do preppy college kids have to spread their feet out and squat when they're contacted by the LAPD?"
The sergeant, whose organization has sued three local police departments for racism, said he targeted Westwood because blacks and other minorities had complained of harassment there since the January slaying of an innocent bystander, Karen Toshima, 27, in an alleged gang-related shooting.
While he supports police attempts to reduce crime, Jackson added that the chief "can count on seeing me again" if the LAPD continues to "violate people's rights."
Such allegations were vigorously denied by Gates on the video played at roll calls Friday and released to reporters Monday.
"We harass no one," said Gates.
In the Jackson incident, the chief said, his officers acted properly in response to "a crazy, crazy, stupid, idiotic act of bringing people into the Westwood area and baiting the police officers there."
"He actually brought known gang members into Westwood," said Gates, "and the interesting thing is when the police officers contacted the gang members and asked them to move . . . the gang members very courteously moved.
"But guess who wouldn't move? The police sergeant," said Gates, a charge Jackson denies.
Gates' stinging remarks came at the conclusion of a lengthy statement in which he defended the department's manner of deploying officers. The LAPD has recently drawn fire from minority leaders partly as a result of its tripling of patrols in Westwood since Toshima's death.