The case of Ezell Ford’s death at the hands of Los Angeles police officershas revealed problems of transparency with respect to the LAPD and the process of civilian oversight of these public servants.
It is unusual for there to be a discrepancy between the conclusions of the civilian commission and the LAPD on the responsibility of officers in shootings. In this case, the police’s internal reportdetermined that the agents acted according to regulations when they fired on the young, unarmed, mentally ill African-American. The officers felt that their life was threatened, and they defended themselves.
The fact that there was a struggle between the officers and Ford seems undisputed. The issue is that the commission used another standard to measure the police officers’ actions. Rather than focusing on the precise moment of the shot, the commissioners took the incident into account, establishing that the arrest and presumption that Ford could be a criminal was incorrect. On that basis, it was determined that one of the offers involved acted improperly.
We believe it is positive to give broader analysis to shootings involving civilians. Just as a video does not tell the whole story of an incident, focusing exclusively on the moment of the shot is insufficient. That in no way justifies or accepts the idea that someone can hit a police officer, but rather makes officers responsible for their actions at all times.
Now it is up to LAPD Chief Charlie Back to follow the commission’s recommendation. The problem is that there is no way to know whether Beck will take any action to punish the officer who acted improperly or will ignore the matter. The process is secret. Thus, civilian oversight of the police isan appearance that easilyfades away.
What we do know is that Beck ensured his rank and file that they have his support and that of Angelinos. The officers have no reason to feel persecuted when there is civil disagreement about their actions. They are not masters of the truth or of impunity. That is something Beck should also remember.