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Parks Seeks New Probes of LAPD

The councilman, a former chief, questions the department's findings in two internal investigations, including one involving a death.

September 22, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Disputing the findings of the Police Department that he once headed, Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks is calling for the reopening of two controversial investigations, including one involving a patrol car that struck two 14-year-old boys, killing one, as they crossed an intersection in South Los Angeles.

Parks, who has had a contentious relationship with his successor, Chief William J. Bratton, has asked the Police Commission to look into the two cases, saying that they were "handled in a manner deserving an independent investigation."

The second case involved a man who was arrested during an antiwar demonstration and suffered a fractured elbow.

The challenge comes amid growing frustration among some at City Hall over the number of large checks the city writes to settle lawsuits after LAPD internal investigations conclude that officers did nothing wrong.

Parks' request was made only weeks after the council voted to pay $650,000 to the families of Rafael Ramos, who was killed in the 2003 accident, and Riccardo Avalos, who was seriously injured. The two were crossing 88th Street at South Broadway at 8:30 p.m. when they were hit by an LAPD patrol car.

Parks disputed the finding of an LAPD Fleet Safety Board, on a 3-2 vote, that the accident was "non-preventable."

"The Fleet Safety Board made this finding despite preponderance of evidence to the contrary," Parks wrote in a letter to the Police Commission that was released this week. "The evidence includes the city's accident expert opinion, California Vehicle Code, eyewitness's accounts and common sense."

Parks chairs the council's Budget and Finance Committee, which makes settlement recommendations in closed sessions, and he cited previously confidential documents in challenging the department's investigations.

Parks revealed that the city attorney's accident reconstructionist concluded that "our defendant officer also bore responsibility for the accident due to his failure to observe the two minors until they were nearly in the path of his vehicle after crossing over five lanes of traffic ... on this well-lighted thoroughfare.... "

The call for reopening the case was welcomed by Gregory W. Moreno, an attorney for the parents of the dead teenager.

"I think the officers should have seen them," Moreno said.

He said the city presented evidence in the officers' favor, including a data strip indicating that the traffic light was green for the police car as it went through the intersection. In addition, the two boys were crossing the street outside a crosswalk, the city contended.

However, Moreno decried the fact that the judge in the case would not order the city to turn over the internal investigative report being cited by Parks.

In the other case Parks complained about, the department has maintained that no force was used in the Feb. 19, 2003, arrest of Jared Ejigu and that the only physical contact involved handcuffing him.

Ejigu, then 19, was taking photographs at an antiwar demonstration in Hollywood when he was arrested and injured. His attorney said Ejigu was moving away from the police line when a bystander took a picture of an officer behind him swinging a baton in his direction.

The council agreed to pay $95,000 to Ejigu to settle a complaint of false arrest and the allegation that police caused his injury. Parks said the "fractured elbow, together with photographic evidence showing a police officer holding a baton and in a striking position against the plaintiff both point to inappropriate behavior," Parks wrote to the commission.

The Police Commission is re-opening the two cases, Executive Director Richard M. Tefank said.

"Those have been assigned to the inspector general. They will pull the cases and review what happened," Tefank said.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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