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Thursday, September 18, 2008

15 LAPD officers face discipline in May Day melee

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton announced Tuesday his plans to discipline 11 officers and called for the termination of four others for their roles in a May Day melee last year in which police were accused of using excessive force to clear immigration rights demonstrators and journalists from MacArthur Park.

The penalties mark a significant step in the Los Angeles Police Department's effort to recover from an incident that Bratton called "a phenomenal black eye." LAPD officers were videotaped wielding batons and shooting rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse a largely peaceful crowd. A scathing internal investigation into the incident blamed poor leadership and overly aggressive tactics by officers in the field.

In general, LAPD Deputy Chief Mark Perez said, officers were being punished for excessive use of force, failing to rein in other officers or lying to investigators during the inquiry. Citing personnel privacy rules, he and Bratton declined to name any of the involved officers or publicly elaborate on the officers' transgressions during a presentation Tuesday to the Police Commission, the department's civilian oversight board.

Four of the officers have been notified of Bratton's desire to fire them, Perez told the commission. Under the city's charter, the chief does not have the authority to summarily kick an officer off the force. Instead, Bratton must send the officer before a three-person disciplinary panel known as a Board of Rights. After considering the evidence in a case, the panel can find that the officer should be fired, suffer a less severe punishment or be vindicated. The chief can accept the panel's recommendation or impose a lesser punishment, but he cannot seek to increase the discipline. The four officers facing termination would remain on duty pending the disciplinary panel's decisions, which are probably months away, authorities said. [Mark Godsey]

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