U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters on Tuesday led about 20 angry residents of the Imperial Courts housing project to the Los Angeles Police Commission, where they accused police of continually harassing and abusing tenants in the sprawling complex.
"Please call off the dogs," the Los Angeles Democrat told commission members. "Keep them from abusing the people."
Waters and the residents alleged that, since the Nov. 29 police shooting of Henry Peco at the project, some tenants have been arrested without cause and have been subjected to police searches of their apartments.
It was the second appearance before the commission by Waters and Imperial Courts tenants.
The Peco shooting has strained relations between police and tenants and has become a rallying point for many residents who bitterly complain that police do not respect their community.
Police say they killed Peco after he and two others opened fire on patrol officers. But the 28-year-old man's relatives and others contend that Peco was unarmed and was shot by police as he walked across a courtyard.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 16, 1992 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Column 6 Metro Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Imperial Courts--A photo caption accompanying Wednesday's story about complaints of police abuse in the Imperial Courts housing project misidentified the man shown with Rep. Maxine Waters. He is Perry Crouch, a tenant activist.
An internal police investigation of the shooting is under way, although Peco's alleged accomplices have implicated him in taped confessions.
Waters and the residents told the commissioners, who were appointed by the mayor, that they are particularly enraged by a police sweep of the project aimed at curbing New Year's Eve gunfire. Forty-four residents were taken into custody Dec. 30 during the pre-dawn raid.
Residents said several people were arrested without warrants, roughed up by police and pulled out of bed before being arrested--allegations that were denied during the hearing by Deputy Chief Matthew Hunt, commander of the South Bureau.
"We did not rouse people out of bed," Hunt said. "We knocked on doors and were invited in. . . . There was no violence. It was all very peaceful."
Waters introduced four tenants, including a 13-year-old girl, who said people were detained by police without cause after the Peco shooting.
"I was in the project the night they killed Peco," said Kizzie Jones, 13. "The police grabbed me and called me a little bitch. . . . Right now I'm afraid to protest because I'm afraid of the LAPD."
Jeronne Island, 17, told the commission that he was arrested without cause and "socked in the nose" about 9 p.m. on Dec. 1 as he was taking his wheelchair-bound mother to visit his aunt.
Another tenant, Robert Franklin, 32, said that he has been taken into custody three times since the shooting but has not been booked for an offense. "I was told I had a bad attitude and was a bad influence on the community," he said.
After each complaint, Commission President Stanley K. Sheinbaum ordered Hunt to investigate the allegations. When Sheinbaum told the residents to make written complaints to the Police Department, Waters said several tenants had been turned away at the front desk of the Southeast Station.
"We have nowhere else to go," Waters said. "This city has undergone so much trauma, and now you commissioners are receiving the brunt of that."
Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents the Imperial Courts project but has not joined in the anti-police complaints, said that it does "not help an explosive situation to have the people there all worked up and to have these constant evil thoughts against the police."
She said she has organized a tenants' task force and has requested $40,000 in city funds for extra police patrols and to establish a hot line so that residents can anonymously report crimes.