The Los Angeles Police Department investigates incidents involving the use of force by officers in a way that makes it difficult in most cases for the city's police watchdog to evaluate the thoroughness of those investigations, according to a recent report.
Alex Bustamante, the inspector general for the L.A. Police Commission, presented the oversight board with a detailed report Tuesday examining how LAPD officials deal with incidents involving less serious uses of force by officers.
These less serious cases, called non-categoricals, or non-cats in LAPD jargon, can include body holds, punches, baton strikes and the firing of non-lethal weapons such as a Taser or bean-bag projectiles. Such cases account for about 95% of the roughly 1,750 force incidents LAPD officers are involved in each year, the report found. The remaining cases — about 90 each year — are the more serious cases in which officers attempt to shoot someone or use some other type of deadly force.
Although cases involving deadly force undergo months-long investigations by a special detective unit, the less serious cases receive considerably less intensive reviews by regular field supervisors. Bustamante pointed out in the report, for example, that in nearly all of the lesser cases, interviews with officers who either participated in the incident or witnessed it are not recorded. Also, the report said, department policy requires only that a single account of the incident be written from the officers' perspective, regardless of how many officers were involved.