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Officer in Beating Loses Job

Inglewood's police chief fires Jeremy J. Morse, who was videotaped roughing up a teenager in July. Morse will fight the decision.

October 25, 2002|Daniel Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

Jeremy J. Morse, the Inglewood police officer facing a criminal trial in the videotaped beating of a handcuffed 16-year-old, has been fired, Inglewood Police Chief Ronald Banks said Thursday.

"I conducted a hearing, and I made my final decision," Banks said.

Morse's rough handling of a teenager after a police stop in July was caught on videotape by a bystander, and its broadcast caused a nationwide outcry, claims of police brutality and local protests. A number of law enforcement agencies investigated, and U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft criticized the officer's actions.

Police were questioning Donovan Jackson and his father at a gas station. The tape showed Jackson face down with his hands cuffed behind his back. Morse lifted him from behind and slammed him onto the trunk of a car and later punched him in the face. Jackson's injuries were not serious. He has sued the city.

Morse was indicted by a Los Angeles County Grand Jury on a charge of assault under color of law, and his partner was indicted on a charge of filing a false police report after the incident. Both officers have pleaded not guilty.

The termination was effective Oct. 14, ending Morse's paid administrative leave.

His attorney asked Wednesday that the city begin a process of arbitration, which is a standard option for terminated employees, officials said.

In the nonbinding process, the city and the Inglewood Police Assn. will pick an arbitrator to review the case and then forward an opinion to City Administrator Joseph T. Rouzan Jr.

Rouzan then will either validate the chief's decision or recommend another action.

The other officer facing criminal charges relating to the July 6 incident, Bijan Darvish, will meet with Chief Banks today for a hearing on disciplinary charges.

Rouzan said Darvish is facing a 10-day suspension without pay for "omission of information" on a police report.

The city's actions were taken after a Superior Court judge issued, then lifted, a restraining order in late August, clearing the way for Banks to fire Morse. Banks on Aug. 1 initiated the process that led to the termination.

"There are a lot of due process rules," Rouzan said. "They can still wind up appealing this to a state court, and perhaps even further, if their attorneys decide to fight it."

Morse's lawyer in the city employment case, who does not represent the officers on their criminal charges, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Darvish's lawyer, Corey Glave, said his client would challenge any disciplinary action against him.

"We are challenging the recommendation of discipline; at some point in time there will be a predisciplinary hearing," Glave said.

Representatives of the Inglewood police union, who said the city's discipline action violated the officers' rights under state law, could not be reached for comment.

Morse's defense had argued that the Police Department failed to advise him of his constitutional rights before he was questioned, and that Morse had not been allowed to have his attorney present at an interrogation.

Morse also said that investigators had kept important documents from his defense.

A judge had halted the disciplinary process, but then ruled that the internal investigation had been proper and allowed the city to proceed.

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