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City Council asks officers to appear

Officials want answers from LAPD officials in charge during the May 1 MacArthur Park melee. Chief Bratton says they probably will refuse.

June 07, 2007|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

In an unusual challenge to Police Chief William J. Bratton, the Los Angeles City Council requested Wednesday that three of his command officers at the May 1 MacArthur Park melee appear before a council task force for questioning about the incident.

After grilling the chief for the second time in two weeks, several council members said they were frustrated and dissatisfied by the answers provided so far about the fracas that injured 42 people, including seven officers.

Bratton said he doubted the deputy chief and commander whom he had reassigned after the incident, and a captain on the scene, would testify before the council. That is because they may be subject to a personnel investigation of their roles overseeing the police response at the immigrants' rights rally.

"I sincerely doubt that any of them will appear," Bratton told the council.

Council President Eric Garcetti responded by noting that the council has subpoena power to compel the appearance of LAPD managers. Garcetti and Councilman Dennis Zine said they would consider using that power, although both said it may not be the best approach and they were hoping the command officers would cooperate.

"I'm not ruling out anything," Zine said.

Zine noted that Bratton did not appear at the scene of the May Day rally until after the confrontation was over and officers had used batons and foam rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Police said they acted after some in the crowd began pelting them with rocks and bottles.

"If we want to be transparent and open about this, we need to find out the state of mind of those in command," Zine told the chief.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn said the chief's explanation to the council has been a "bureaucratic attempt to defend what had happened" and has not addressed all of her concerns.

"Many of our questions were not answered last week, and I know none of my questions were answered last week," Hahn said.

She suggested that the council task force set up to look into the MacArthur Park incident could meet in closed session to hear information that, if made public, might hurt the city's chances to defend against lawsuits.

Zine, a former LAPD sergeant, said he believes department policy requires managers to appear before the council if requested, but he said they might be able to refuse to testify, after they arrive, on grounds that it would put them in legal jeopardy.

The councilman said he especially wants to hear from the three highest-ranking command officers in MacArthur Park that day: Deputy Chief Cayler "Lee" Carter, Cmdr. Louis Gray and Capt. John Egan.

Carter was demoted days after the incident and is retiring; Gray has been reassigned to an office position.

Bratton addressed another controversy Wednesday, saying he stands by his promotion of Capt. Richard Webb to serve as assistant commanding officer of the Professional Standards Bureau. The leader of an African American police officers group Tuesday said that Webb has shown bias against minority officers.

The chief said that, although the council agreed to pay $155,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination by Webb, a department investigation found no evidence of bias.

"I have every confidence in Capt. Webb. He is an outstanding leader," Bratton said. "He is not a racist."

--

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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