The Los Angeles City Council will vote Wednesday on a $4.5-million settlement… (Los Angeles Times )
The Times' April 6 editorial supporting a $4.5-million settlement by our cash-strapped city with a violent gang-banger who was convicted of a drive-by shooting and shot by Los Angeles police officers was deeply flawed, both factually and morally.
Imagine for a moment that you are an officer on patrol at night when you receive a report of a drive-by shooting. When eyewitnesses point out the culprits, you begin a pursuit. Their vehicle stops suddenly and you see one of the shooters run away from the car with what appears to be a gun in his hand. During the foot pursuit, he turns toward you several times with his arm raised and a black object in his hand. When he stops and appears to try to use his weapon against you, you fire in defense of your life -- exactly as you are trained to do -- and the suspect goes down. You call paramedics and place the suspect under arrest.
The suspect survives with serious injuries from the shooting and is paralyzed. He is convicted of participating in the drive-by shooting, and he goes to prison for the violent felony.
Upon his release he drags you into federal court claiming that you and the city violated his civil rights because you did not find his gun after the shooting. Although he is alleged to have admitted to a cellmate that he did in fact have a gun and threw it away during the pursuit, the federal judge does not allow the jury to hear that evidence. The judge does not allow the jury to hear evidence that the plaintiff is a violent gang member or that he was convicted and imprisoned for the very drive-by shooting that resulted in his injuries. After being denied so much critically important information, the jury finds that you violated the gang-banger's civil rights.
Now imagine how you would feel if City Hall went along with the misinformed jury and agreed to pay millions of dollars to the person convicted of the drive-by shooting in a voluntary settlement. Would you feel that your city government had your back? Would you feel that the people of Los Angeles, whom you keep safe every day, cared more about the danger to your life or the comfort and care of the felon who threatened you after shooting up a neighborhood?
The Times encourages the city to do exactly that.
Worse, The Times claims that this settlement will hold the Los Angeles Police Department "accountable." Accountable for what? Two separate investigations, one conducted by the LAPD and the other by the civilian Police Commission, both cleared the officers of any wrongdoing and concluded that they fired in reasonable defense of their own lives and the safety of the public. How this very relevant information was not allowed to be presented to the federal jury is mystifying -- and how The Times fails to acknowledge that important fact in its editorial is inexplicable.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 riots. In the ensuing two decades, the brave men and women of the LAPD have been fighting hard not just to protect the residents of Los Angeles, but also to demonstrate that the reforms mandated by the 2001 federal consent decree and demanded by the public have become ingrained into the culture of the department. It is fitting that on this somber anniversary, a case like this one presents our city with a test of faith and hope in our police department.
I believe the settlement supported by The Times is profoundly wrong and would be a capitulation to a misinformed jury that was denied all the facts of the case. More important, it would mark an acceptance of the kind of knee-jerk distrust of our brave men and women in the LAPD that we should instead roundly reject.
Sadly, there will be more situations in which our officers must act to defend themselves or us. We must let them know that when they do so appropriately and according to policy, we as a city will strongly support and fight for them. And we must send a clear message to those who would put the public and our officers at risk as well: If you suffer injury that results from your own violent crimes, don't look to L.A. taxpayers to pay for your medical care for life.
City Councilman Paul Krekorian represents Los Angeles' 2nd District.
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