L.A. Police Revise Car-Shooting Policy
Thursday, February 17, 2005
By: Paul Chavez, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- Ten days after an officer shot to death a 13-year-old who backed a stolen vehicle into a police car, the city Police Commission on Wednesday approved limits on when officers can shoot at moving vehicles.
Under the revised policy, officers cannot fire at a moving vehicle unless someone is threatened with deadly force other than the vehicle. Mayor James Hahn pushed for the change after Devin Brown was shot Feb. 6 following an early morning chase.
"Obviously we will never adopt a policy that would take away the officer's own right to self-defense. But this policy will give clear guidance," Hahn said.
The death of Brown, who was black, outraged many and immediately sparked a street protest. Hundreds of mourners packed a south Los Angeles church Tuesday for Brown's funeral, during which criticism of the police drew applause.
"It's time for us to stand up and take back our community. We will police ourselves," The Nation of Islam's Rev. Tony Muhammad said to a standing ovation.
Muhammad said citizen "soldiers" would take to the streets Tuesday night to monitor the streets, but LAPD spokesman Jason Lee said no such community policing occurred.
The shooting is being investigated by police, the district attorney's office and the FBI. Officer Steven Garcia, who fired 10 shots at Brown and killed him, will be on desk duty until the investigation concludes.
The policy revision had been in the works for about a year, since police shot and killed a man who backed up toward officers during a chase broadcast on live television. But the shooting of Brown led Police Chief William Bratton to speed up the work.
The policy says that an officer "threatened by an oncoming vehicle shall move out of its path instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants." It also bans officers from firing from a moving vehicle, except in extreme circumstances.
The new policy states that although it may not cover every situation, an officer who fires at a moving vehicle must be able to clearly articulate why. Factors that could be considered include whether there were any apparent means of escape.
Police departments in major cities including Boston, Cincinnati and Detroit have adopted similar restrictions in recent years. New York City adopted language almost identical to the new policy in 1972.
Bratton called the new language part of broader changes within the department regarding the use of force.
"This is just the latest change in what I believe will be more to come," he said.
I had not heard the story of this shooting before now. However, it seems like around the time that a little 4-year-old also took a car and backed it up into a police vehicle ... and I don't remember him getting shot 10 times and dying! But then again, he was not Black nor in Los Angeles, was he?