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Ex-officer's record called inaccurate

LAPD officials are asked to explain why a pepper spray violation isn't in disciplinary report.

April 11, 2007|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Police Department's inspector general revealed Tuesday that a former officer's disciplinary record fails to accurately show that he violated policy in the way he acted with a handcuffed suspect on whom he used pepper spray.

As a result, the Police Commission asked LAPD commanders to explain why the violation does not appear.

Inspector Gen. Andre Birotte Jr. said the officer's department record indicates the complaint for unbecoming conduct was unfounded when the incident's investigative report said it was sustained.

The work record accurately indicated that a second complaint of unauthorized use of force was not resolved.

At issue is an incident on Venice's Ocean Front Walk in February 2005 in which a bystander using a video camera recorded the arrest of Benjamin Barker, who was accused of attacking a store owner and spitting on patrons.

Civil rights activists were outraged that an unnamed officer, who left the department shortly afterward, used pepper spray on Barker after he was handcuffed and left him in a patrol car with the doors and windows closed so the painful effects of the spray were intensified.

"An attempt to provide proper ventilation should have occurred, but it did not for several minutes," said Birotte's report.

Identifying a "noteworthy inconsistency," Birotte said the police report indicates the officer stepped back before spraying the suspect, but the videotape shows the officer "actually leaned forward into the police vehicle and it appeared he was very close to the subject's face."

Department policy indicates that officers should use pepper spray from 3 or more feet away to avoid causing serious injury, but Birotte's report said the officer may have been closer than that.

Using pepper spray from 2 feet away, said Commission President John Mack, is inconsistent with the policy.

LAPD officials said they would issue a follow-up report and spell out the department's policy on using pepper spray in an enclosed vehicle.


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