For example, Latino LAPD officers stated that even in many heavily Latino divisions, there is often no Spanish-speaking officer available to take complaints. Witnesses testified at the commission's public hearings that intake officers actively discouraged them from filing complaints by tactics such as requiring the complainant to wait for long periods before being permitted to make a complaint, and even threatening defamation suits or referrals to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The commission staff reviewed over 700 personnel complaint investigation files relating to charges of excessive force or improper tactics.
That review validates many of the public's charges of inadequate or improper complaint investigation.
Based on testimony before the commission and the staff's review of investigative files, the commission has concluded that the department's system of classification as it is now designed and operated is biased in favor of officers charged with excessive force or improper tactics.
The commission is further persuaded that, even when such complaints are sustained, the punishment is more lenient than it should be.
Cmdr. Michael Bostic, who was assigned by Chief Gates to investigate issues relating to training and use of force following the King incident, testified before the commission as follows: "They said if you lie, cheat and steal we'll fire you, if you use drugs we'll fire you. But if you use excessive force, we won't."
From the beginning of 1984 through the end of 1990, the department's own records reflect at least 36 cases of sustained complaints involving allegations of excessive force against a handcuffed suspect.
The Code of Silence
Perhaps the greatest single barrier to the effective investigation and adjudication of complaints is the officers' unwritten "code of silence." While loyalty and support are salutary and even necessary qualities, they cannot justify the violation of an officer's public responsibility to ensure compliance with the law, including LAPD regulations.
When asked whether there is a code of silence among officers, former Assistant Chief Jesse Brewer stated: "That may be the right way to term it in that there is a reluctance on the part of police officers to complain about misconduct on the part of their partners when they see it, when they observe it."
One of the most distressing examples of the code of silence in operation occurred in the recent prosecution of three LAPD officers for criminal vandalism stemming from the extensive property damage in the 39th and Dalton drug raid.
CHAPTER TEN: THE POLICE COMMISSION AND CHIEF OF POLICE
Much as the nation's military is under the control of civilians, as are police departments throughout the country, the Los Angeles City Charter contemplates that the quasi-military Police Department should be subject to citizen oversight and control. This oversight and control are to be exercised by the Police Commission, which the charter designates as the "head" of the department.
In practice, the Police Commission's authority has proved illusory; a number of structural and operational constraints greatly weaken the Police Commission's power to hold the chief accountable and therefore its ability to perform its management responsibilities, including effective oversight. As a result, real power and authority effectively reside in the police chief, which has caused various Police Commissions to have attempted to exercise direction and control through strategies ranging from outright confrontation to simple acquiescence or even appeasement.
The Police Commission adopted the current system for reviewing officer-involved shootings and certain other use of force cases after the controversy that followed the fatal shooting of Eulia Love by two police officers in 1979.
One problem with this system is that there are no well-defined criteria that trigger the Police Commission's review. But it is unclear whether cases involving serious but nonfatal injuries inflicted by something other than a firearm--which were intended to be covered by the Eulia Love report recommendations--actually come before the Police Commission.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: IMPLEMENTATION
This report presents significant recommendations all across the spectrum of the operations and structure of the Los Angeles Police Department and related agencies. . . . These comprehensive and interdependent recommendations require immediate action.
The commission is unanimously committed to the attainment of the entire set of reforms. Full implementation, however, will require action by the mayor, the City Council, the Police Commission, the Police Department and ultimately the voters.
It has not been the finest hour for city government.
The following steps should be taken: