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Inglewood police face new training

Officers will learn about tactical decision-making in the wake of four deadly shootings.

October 23, 2008|Joanna Lin and Andrew Blankstein | Lin and Blankstein are Times staff writers

In the wake of a series of deadly officer-involved shootings, Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks announced Wednesday that her officers would begin new training in tactical decision-making next month.

Seabrooks told reporters that the training would help officers better assess situations that could escalate to the use of deadly force.

"At the end of the day, we are talking about a program that is to professionalize and enhance a skill set," Seabrooks said.

The first three-week training session will begin Nov. 5 and eventually will include all of the department's 193 officers.

Seabrooks said the program was in the works before the four deadly shootings that occurred from May to September. In three of those cases, the suspects were unarmed. The incidents generated widespread criticism of the department's use-of-force policies, tactics and leadership.

"One of the consistent themes I've heard from members of this organization . . . is that we need to do more training here," Seabrooks said, adding she had ordered an extensive analysis of "critical incidents" involving Inglewood officers dating back nearly a decade.

In addition to outside training consultants -- including veteran police psychologist Lawrence Blum, retired LAPD Sgt. Tim Anderson, retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Capt. Richard Odenthal and retired California Highway Patrol Cmdr. Gordon Graham -- Los Angeles County's Office of Independent Review is expected to conclude its investigation of the department's training, policies and procedures this year.

"We will look at those recommendations when they come in, but it is important for us to be on a schedule, not waiting for a report that may come in three months. Because in three months. . . . we could be that much further along," Seabrooks said.

The Office of Independent Review report will focus heavily on the four fatal officer-involved shootings, the most recent involving Eddie Felix Franco, a homeless man who was killed by officers after displaying a fake gun.

In that case, officers fired at least 47 shots, killing Franco and wounding a motorist as well as a dog.

The department also was criticized for poor judgment in handling other cases.

On May 11, officers killed Michael Byoune, 19, and wounded two other men. Police reports said the officers mistakenly believed the men, who were unarmed, were firing at them. Seabrooks later called the shooting "a very tragic outcome."

On July 1, Ruben Walton Ortega, a 23-year-old alleged gang member, was shot and killed by an Inglewood officer when police said he reached into his waistband as he ran from an officer. Police said at the time that the officer believed Ortega was armed. Seabrooks later said he was not.

Police shot and killed Kevin Wicks, 38, on July 21 after officers said Wicks raised a gun at Officer Brian Ragan, who was responding to a report of a family disturbance at Wicks' apartment complex. Ragan was one of two officers involved in the Byoune shooting.

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joanna.lin@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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