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Court Case Rekindles Long Beach Friction : Police: Former Chief Binkley testifies that city officials prevented him from disciplining officers. The city manager denies the allegation.

April 25, 1992|ROXANA KOPETMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Allegations of police brutality have unleashed a war of words between Long Beach officials and ousted Chief Lawrence L. Binkley, who testified in federal court that city officials prevented him from disciplining officers who used excessive force.

Speaking publicly for the first time since he was fired in January, Binkley testified April 16 in a civil case in U.S. District Court about the resistance he met from the police union and City Hall when he tried to discipline officers.

"(The) Civil Service (Commission) regularly, if not 75% of the time, reduced the discipline," he said.

In addition, Binkley said, City Manager James C. Hankla and Assistant City Atty. Robert E. Shannon instructed him not to investigate allegations of police misconduct, including brutality, when a complaint or lawsuit was filed.

"My boss was the city manager, who said he concurred with the city attorney's opinion not to initiate an investigation when there is a civil complaint," Binkley testified.

Hankla testified Friday, however, that he never instructed the former chief to avoid investigating any case.

"I instructed Larry Binkley to be aggressive and thorough in his investigation of allegations of wrongdoing against police officers," Hankla told the jury.

Friday's testimony came in the trial of a lawsuit filed by two teen-agers who accused Long Beach police officers of beating them while breaking up a melee outside a punk rock party at the Lafayette Hotel on May 6, 1988.

Binkley testified that he first became aware of the brutality allegations when the suit was filed, although he remembered seeing an earlier police report on the incident. But because it was a civil complaint, he said, he was forbidden to look into it.

Kimberly Raugh, then 15, and Michael Jeffers, then 17, were injured in the incident. Jeffers was struck on the back of the head with a police flashlight, and Raugh, the daughter of a county Assistant Administrator Peter Raugh, was severely beaten, said Stephen Yagman, their attorney.

Yagman said he was so impressed with Binkley's testimony that he dropped the former chief as a defendant in the case.

Hankla said outside the courtroom that the plaintiffs were attempting to "deflect the jury from the issues" by bringing in Binkley.

In court documents, Shannon denied Binkley's allegations.

The defendants in the suit are Officer James Hill, 42, Sgt. Stephen Henson, 45, and former Officer Mark Dickey, who was accused in a 1989 incident of pushing activist Don Jackson through a window.

The three policemen were among 66 officers wearing helmets and carrying batons who dispersed a crowd of 300 to 400 teen-agers at the concert in downtown Long Beach. The officers struck indiscriminately at the crowd, Raugh and Jeffers said.

However, William Reidder, the senior deputy city attorney representing Long Beach and the officers, said officers used their batons to push back the crowd but did not strike anyone. The officers accused in the lawsuit were not near the two teen-agers, he said.

Police arrived at the hotel after receiving complaints from tenants about loud music.

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