Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Citizens of Los Angeles. Good News.

LAPD Plan to Curb Flashlight Beatings

LOS ANGELES - The city's police commission unveiled a plan Tuesday aimed at discouraging officers from using flashlights as weapons, except in emergencies.

The proposal comes months after a telvised beating by Officer John Hatfield showed him striking a motorist 11 times following a foot chase. The June 23 incident sparked widespread objection to the use of flashlights as weapons.

"Officers don't mind being held accountable as long as they have a clear policy to follow, and that's what we're providing here," said Alan Skobin, vice president of the police commission.

The proposed policy, to be considered Jan. 11, stops short of the near-total bans on practice enacted in other large cities. It states that flashlights should only be used for light and should only be used as a weapon in very unusual circumstances.

The proposal seems to permit officers to use flashlights to stop violent suspects, said Bob Baker, president of the Police Protective League, the Los Angeles Police Department officers' union.

"We support policies that, at the end of the watch, mean we are going home safe," Baker said.

Ricardo Garcia, criminal justice director of the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) of Southern California, said the proposal was a good start.

"But I'd like to see them move away from even this permissive a use of flashlight," Garcia said. "On the positive side, at least this will give officers some training on how if they're going to strike with a flashlight to do it. Before this, they could pretty much do anything."

At the time of the Miller incident, the LAPD (news - web sites) had no formal policy on proper use of a flashlight to subdue a suspect.

After the beating, Chief William J. Bratton said he would forbid the use of heavy metal flashlights like the one used by Hatfield. Bratton said the department would develop small, lightweight rubber flashlights, which it is still in the process of doing.

The new proposal would require a written explanation and critical review whenever a flashlight is used as a weapon.


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