An LAPD command staff friend once told me the following about the elements necessary to successfully train good police officers: “The idea is to create critical thinkers, not just tactical experts, people who can not only shoot a gun brilliantly but who also know when to shoot the damn thing — and more important, when not to.”
According to Sunday’s LA Times, members of the Inglewood police department aren’t terribly clear about the last part of that weapons-related equation.
In the span of four months this year, Inglewood officers shot and killed four people, three of them unarmed. The Times’ review of court documents, law enforcement records and interviews shows that the problem is not new.
* Five of the 11 people shot and killed by Inglewood police since 2003 were unarmed. They include a man who fled when officers tried to stop him for riding his bicycle on a sidewalk. An officer said he fired when the man reached for a bulge near his waist, which turned out to be a rolled-up T-shirt.
* Several officers — including a training sergeant — have complained about the department’s policy on when to shoot and about a lack of training.
* To investigate shootings by police, the department has assigned the vice president of the Inglewood police officers’ union, which advocates for officers accused of wrongdoing, and a detective accused by a prosecutor of lying about his own off-duty shooting.
* Two Inglewood officers were involved in using electric Taser guns on unarmed suspects four times in five weeks — including on one man’s genitals — prompting defense attorneys to call them the “Taser Twins.”
Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks is a smart, personable woman who came to her present position with many promises to correct the department’s past problems, including the promise to root out problem officers. In addition, she was kind enough to make herself open and available to several of my USC students whom I assigned to cover the Inglewood police last spring and talked about the changes she intended to make in the department.
My students also found that the Inglewood police had a big public image problem, and that a great many Inglewood residents did not feel at all protected and served by their cops.
Thus when one reads things like the above description of who will be investigating these questionable shootings (…the department has assigned the vice president of the Inglewood police officers’ union, which advocates for officers accused of wrongdoing, and a detective accused by a prosecutor of lying about his own off-duty shooting) it is difficult to imagine what Chief Seabrooks could possibly be thinking.
Maybe Chief Seabrooks in over her head. It takes a strong, steady, confident leader to be able to change an entrenched police culture.
If Chief Seabrooks isn’t that leader, she must be replaced.
Photo by Gary McCarthy, Los Angeles Wave