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Inglewood Police Accused of Abuse in Other Cases

Police: Despite lawsuits and cash settlements, no complaint has been referred for prosecution.


Long before the videotaped images of an Inglewood police officer manhandling a 16-year-old boy became national news last week, a string of bruised and battered suspects had complained of receiving similar treatment--or worse--at the hands of abusive Inglewood officers, according to documents and interviews.

The Times has identified more than a dozen complaints of excessive force against Inglewood officers in recent years, which include allegations of police breaking noses, knocking out teeth and otherwise mistreating arrestees. Many of the alleged victims said they were assaulted after committing "contempt of cop" offenses such as verbally challenging an officer or not immediately doing what they were told.

The Inglewood Police Department has not referred any of the cases to the district attorney's office; as a result, none of the officers involved has been charged with crimes.

In an interview Friday, Inglewood Police Chief Ronald C. Banks declined to discuss any of the cases identified by The Times, which are detailed in court records and police documents. Banks said the fact that a complaint or lawsuit had been filed did not mean that the allegations were true or even that the cases warranted review by prosecutors.

Among the cases involving allegations of excessive force by Inglewood police:

* A 59-year-old Compton high school teacher said in a lawsuit that he suffered a torn rotator cuff and two herniated discs after he was allegedly handcuffed, thrown to the ground and kneed in the back by an Inglewood officer in August 2000. The man said he was trying to help a disoriented neighbor who was causing a disturbance when a police officer who had been called to the scene told him to "stay out of police business."

He was arrested for interfering with an officer, but the charges were later dropped.

* A 45-year-old security guard said an officer punched her in the mouth in February 2000, splitting her lip and loosening a tooth. The officer admitted punching the woman, according to court files, but said he did so because she was advancing on him in a threatening manner. The woman was charged with assaulting a police officer, but the charges against her were dropped. She has since filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Police Department.

* In July 1999, another schoolteacher said he suffered abrasions on his cheek, shoulder and knee after he was handcuffed and thrown face first onto a sidewalk outside a neighborhood bar where he had been playing pool. The man was arrested for being drunk in public, according to documents. But the man's attorney said the charges were dropped when a test failed to detect any alcohol in his system. The city paid the man $17,500 to settle a lawsuit against the Police Department.

* An alleged gang member said that on Feb. 1, 1997, a police officer punched him in the face and broke his nose. One of the officer's partners was subsequently fired for destroying photographs he took of the bloody-faced gang member minutes after the alleged attack. Inglewood internal affairs investigators, who looked at the case after the young man filed a complaint with the department, said the evidence suggested that the photos were destroyed to protect the officer who allegedly struck the young man. Neither officer was prosecuted, and the one who allegedly struck the young man remains on the job.

Many of the people who alleged excessive force said police officials treated them rudely and ignored their complaints when they tried to come forward with their allegations.

Keith Shores, a Northwest Airlines employee who alleges he was roughed up, handcuffed and thrown to the ground by police after a traffic stop, was rebuffed at the station when he tried to level a complaint the next day, according to his attorney, Tom Beck.

Shores was accompanied by a friend who was a county probation officer, but the desk officers ignored him as well, Beck said.

Attorney Jorge Gonzalez, who represents three alleged victims of excessive force on New Year's Eve, contends a watch commander told his clients "either you can file a complaint against the officers or you can go home tonight without any charges."

They decided to leave. One of the officers they accused of using excessive force was Jeremy Morse, the officer who is seen on the videotape slamming the teenager, Donovan Jackson, onto the trunk of a police car.

Inglewood police officials did not respond to requests from The Times to provide annual tallies of the number of excessive force complaints lodged against their officers and a breakdown for how those cases were adjudicated. Although court records show that some officers involved in the cases reviewed by The Times were disciplined by the Police Department--in one case, an officer was fired--Banks would not say how others were handled. Nor did the city's attorney respond to a request for information regarding the amount of money the city has paid out to settle lawsuits that alleged excessive force by police.

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