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Long Beach Seeks Outtakes in Police Sting Controversy

February 02, 1989|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The city is asking a Superior Court judge to force NBC to turn over complete videotapes of an incident in which a white officer allegedly pushed a black man into a plate-glass window.

The city attorney's office is also seeking to compel the black man, Don Jackson, and his companion on the night of the Jan. 14 incident to give them the names and addresses of all witnesses.

A deputy city attorney said he has been seeking the information to aid in the investigation of the so-called sting in which Jackson, in conjunction with a group working against police brutality, hoped to expose misconduct by Long Beach police officers. NBC videotaped the incident for a segment on the group's efforts.

'We Want to See' Outtakes

"We're trying to discover what the heck they've got," Senior Deputy City Atty. Robert E. Shannon said. "I have no idea. There may be some things on the outtakes, and we want to see them."

NBC has refused to turn over any videotape that was not broadcast. Its executives say the network has a policy against releasing outtakes.

Attorney Thomas E. Beck--representing Jackson, who is on leave from his job as a Hawthorne police sergeant, and companion Jeff Hill--said he will allow questioning of the men if the city agrees not to prosecute them.

Otherwise, he said questioning by the city would breech their constitutional rights against self-incrimination.

Shannon said any request for immunity from prosecution would have to be directed to the city prosecutor. A judge has scheduled a hearing Feb. 14 to review the city's petition to subpoena the tapes.

The city, the FBI and the district attorney's office have been conducting separate investigations of the incident in which Jackson and Hill acted as decoys to see whether they, as black men in shabby clothes and driving an old car, would be stopped by police and mistreated. They invited NBC's Today show along.

An NBC video camera recorded Officer Mark Dickey as he appeared to swear at Jackson, to push Jackson's head into a plate-glass window and to throw him onto a squad car. Dickey reacted, the tape appeared to show, after Jackson heatedly questioned the officer about why their car had been stopped, then hesitated in submitting to a search for weapons.

Beck, Jackson's attorney, said he does not know whether criminal charges are contemplated against Jackson or Hill. But he said questions asked by police investigators indicated that officials may be thinking about charges.

One team of officers advised Hill of his Miranda protections against self-incrimination before questioning Hill after the incident, Beck said.

Previous Trip Into City

A separate team of police internal affairs officers who are investigating possible police misconduct, asked Hill questions that did not relate to the incident, for example seeking information about a previous trip into Long Beach by the Police Misconduct Lawyers Referral Service, the anti-brutality group.

(During one night in December, Jackson--with a camera crew following in another vehicle--drove around Beverly Hills for one hour and Long Beach for more than three hours without incident. At one point, a Long Beach officer turned on his emergency lights and prepared to stop Jackson's car, but broke off to handle a radio call instead, according to a spokesman for the referral service.

(It was on the second try, Jan. 14, that the Jackson-Hill car was stopped by Dickey and partner Mark Ramsey minutes after entering Long Beach. The officers said the car had been weaving across the center line of Pacific Coast Highway.)

"I've gone to the interview with internal affairs, and they are asking questions to incriminate Jackson, Hill and and anyone else involved with this," Beck said.

Beck said he supplied police with a copy of a second videotape made by the anti-brutality group from another vehicle on the night of the incident. He said the tape would have been moved into evidence anyway after the filing of a claim and a subsequent lawsuit alleging police misconduct.

About 30 to 50 claims and 15 to 20 lawsuits are filed against the Long Beach Police Department each year alleging misconduct, according to Shannon of the city attorney's office.

As police and other officials continued investigating the incident, the Long Beach City Council agreed Tuesday to study a proposal for police reforms put forth by clergymen alarmed by the Jackson incident.

Sixteen ministers and rabbis asked the council for changes that would include more human-relations training for officers, opening a police substation in the minority community and creating a citizen oversight panel to air complaints about police brutality.

Councilman Clarence Smith, chairman of the Quality of Life Committee, said he hopes that the panel can return recommendations for action by the council within a month. The committee's initial hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers at City Hall.

Frank Berry, president of the Long Beach branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, told the council that his organization urges the resignation and prosecution of Dickey in the Jackson incident. He also accused the officer of lying on his subsequent report.

Dickey has been assigned to detective work pending the outcome of the internal police investigation.

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