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LAPD Audit Reveals Gap in Oversight

A report to the Police Commission shows most officers told to undergo retraining for violating use-of-force guidelines may have not done so.

October 11, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

More than half of the Los Angeles police officers ordered by the Police Commission to undergo retraining for shortcomings identified in their use of force have failed to verify they have complied, which undermines civilian oversight of the LAPD, officials said Tuesday.

Of the 525 police officers ordered by the commission and chief to undergo training in the last two years, Police Department auditors said there is no proof that 285 officers completed the instruction.

An additional 49 officers had been scheduled for retraining but had not completed it, according to the report submitted to the panel Tuesday by Police Chief William J. Bratton.

"It tells me that we have a breakdown in civilian oversight of the department," said Commissioner Anthony Pacheco. "It tells me that what we do, to some extent, doesn't matter, and I don't like to hear that. We need to remedy that. It's not tolerable."

The department and the commission often order additional training when officers fail to follow the department manual on when to draw and fire their weapons and when to use batons or other forms of force.

If the chief and commission determine an officer should undergo retraining, a notice is sent to the person's commanding officer, but officials acknowledged Tuesday that paperwork sometimes does not get processed.

"Some commanders were either not paying attention to those or they were lost in the mail because it is a paper-driven system," said Capt. Richard Webb, who oversaw the audit.

Commission President John Mack said it is an "exercise in futility" for the commission and department to spend large amounts of time reviewing cases in which officers shoot or beat suspects if the recommendations for additional training are ignored.

"This is not an acceptable thing," Mack said.

While some officers may have undergone training but not obtained the required documentation, Webb said he does not consider training to be complete unless it is documented

Webb, commanding officer of the Use-of-Force Review Division, acknowledged to the commission that dozens of officers have not complied with the panel's orders for retraining.

At the request of Commissioner Shelley Freeman, the panel asked for an update in 60 days to ensure a higher percentage of officers ordered to retrain actually do so.

"I'm very concerned about this," Freeman said.

The LAPD has recently assigned one officer to "bird-dog" training orders to make sure officers sign up for and complete the required instruction, Webb said.

He said in the last year, 40% of officers ordered to undergo retraining have failed to verify they have done so; nonetheless, that is an improvement from a couple of years ago.

Still, Webb told the commission, "Anything less than 100% compliance is not acceptable. This can't happen."

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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