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Most LAPD officers who violate policy in shootings avoid serious punishment, report shows

Dozens of Los Angeles police officers who were found to have violated policy when they opened fire on people in recent years did not receive serious punishments, with some receiving no punishment at all for their actions, including fatal shootings, according to a report by the Los Angeles Police Department’s inspector general.

The report, to be discussed at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting Tuesday, highlights 66 police officers who fired at least one shot in 45 shootings that were deemed to have broken from the department’s policy from 2015 to 2020.

Of those officers, one was fired and two resigned before a disciplinary board could hear their cases, according to the report, authored by Inspector General Mark Smith.

Twenty-seven – nearly 41% – of the 66 officers were not disciplined, while 20 received suspensions ranging from two to 55 days, the report says. Thirteen officers received official reprimands, essentially warnings without punishment, which remain on an officer’s record and could lead to more serious consequences if another violation occurs.

Three officers’ cases were pending a disciplinary board’s ruling.

In nine cases, the police chief proposed an officer’s firing. Those cases include the officer who was fired and the two who resigned. In four cases, a discipline panel lowered the chief’s recommendations to suspensions; one was pending and one entered an agreement to a 22-day suspension and an immediate retirement.

In other cases, the discipline panel – called the Board of Rights – reduced suspensions proposed by the chief, cutting a 10-day suspension in half for one officer and turning a suspension into a reprimand for another, according to the report.

The three-person panel, which can include two high-ranking officers or be made up of all civilians at the request of the officer facing discipline, has the final say on punishment in cases of serious misconduct. All-civilian panels were found to be more lenient with officers than traditional panels, according to a May 2021 Inspector General report.

The officer who was fired was Salvador Sanchez, who has since been charged by the state Attorney General’s office with voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting a mentally disabled man and injuring his parents after the man hit him in the head inside a Costco in Corona in June 2019. Sanchez, who was off duty while shopping in the store, has since pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Kevin Ferguson, an officer who resigned before his case could be reviewed by the Board of Rights, was deemed out of policy when he fired a warning shot into the ground while struggling with several teens on the sidewalk near his Anaheim home after confronting one of them for walking on his lawn on her way home from school in February 2017. Ferguson was off-duty at the time.

Charges were not filed by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office in that case and a lawsuit filed by the family of one of the teenagers was dropped.

The second officer who resigned was Clifford Proctor, who fatally shot an unarmed homeless man in Venice twice in the back in 2015.

Twelve officers appealed their punishments and were found not guilty of wrongdoing for firing upon an alleged burglary suspect after he exited a Sunland home and dropped into a ravine, the report says. Some of the bullets that killed Anthony Soderberg, 29, were fired from a helicopter.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, speaking at a January news conference to discuss 2021 crime statistics, requested the report on out-of-policy police shootings and the disciplinary action taken because previous preliminary findings in another inspector general’s report showed that the all-civilian disciplinary panel was too lenient.

“Quite often, the chief of this department supports discipline,” Garcetti said at the news conference. “We as political leaders looking at the evidence do as well, but the outcomes aren’t there.”

Source: Orange County Register

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