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L.A. Police Shooting Cases

August 21, 1994

* Re "LAPD Officers Faulted in 3 of 4 Shooting Cases," Aug. 14:

As a citizen and a Los Angeles Police Department reserve officer, I am disappointed that The Times would print such a headline and article. As a reserve officer, I have the unique opportunity to view police work as both an officer working once a week and a citizen who lives and works in Los Angeles. As a citizen, I have had nothing but positive encounters with the LAPD. In my capacity as a reserve officer working patrol assignments, I have observed only professional conduct by both my partners and other officers.

I recall an incident where my partner and I responded to a disturbance call only to be greeted by an obviously intoxicated individual holding a pistol in his right hand. Did we draw our weapons? Yes. Did we almost shoot him? Yes. Fortunately he dropped the pistol. Had we shot him, would your headline read "LAPD Shoots Man Armed with Starter's Pistol"? I ask, could your reporter or my partner and I have positively identified the weapon as "only a starter's pistol"? Would you want to make that decision? We were lucky he put it down. The suspect later explained that he had been arrested recently for fighting and was mad at the police. On more than this one occasion I have observed officers demonstrate cool-headed decision-making and fire control.

The public should be pleased that the LAPD conducts shooting investigations. That an officer may be given some constructive criticism or recommended for training is not outrageous. Who does not require additional training or advice over the course of his/her career, no matter what the profession? Who has not ever asked what could have been done to do a better job?

Your article highlights shootings where what the officers thought was a weapon was in fact a comb or no weapon at all. What you fail to highlight is that the call sent to the officers may have stated that the suspect had a gun or other weapon. As officers respond to the scene, they have only the information that was given to them. If this information included that the suspect has a gun, and the suspect reaches into his/her waistband or pockets for what turns out to be a comb and is shot, the press might report that LAPD shot a suspect armed with a comb. Is this what happened? Yes. Is this accurate or the whole story? No.

JOHN McCARTHY

Los Angeles

* It would appear to me that the statistics cited represent a lot of overstressed police officers. One more time this comes back to an undersized Police Department doing an oversized job. More police officers on the street would provide more backup and more opportunity for an overwhelming show of force, hopefully negating the need for an escalation of deadly force.

I just wonder how long it's going to take Los Angeles to wake up and see how faint the "Thin Blue Line" really is?

BARRY A. LOWRY

Ridgecrest

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