Inglewood City Council Should Release Office of Independent Counsel Review Report
By Leon Jenkins
Los Angeles NAACP
The failure of the Inglewood City Council to release the report of the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review does nothing to foster a sense of community. A community sense that we are all in this together. Instead the City of Inglewood, and the Inglewood Police Department foster a sense that they are outsiders that do not have the best interest of the community at heart in their decision making process when it comes to officer-involved-shootings.
On the face of it, Inglewood residents who feel this way are arguable correct given the City’s history of prior officer-involved-shootings, and recent succession of shootings within an extremely narrow window of time. The Inglewood City Council and Police Department compounded this crisis by attempting to comfort the public (as most cities and police departments do) by making promises that they cannot legally keep, i.e., “We will be totally open and transparent in our investigation.” “We will release the findings and conclusions of our investigation.” While this sounds good to the general public, and this should be the way all police shooting investigations are conducted. The law as it is presently written does not allow for a full disclosure of facts surrounding an officer-involved-shooting. Matter of fact, some of the most secretive and protected evidence in the State of California involves shielding from public view the individual acts of law enforcement officers.
In instances where a law enforcement officer faces disciplinary action, criminal investigation, or civil liability law enforcement personnel records are, in most instances, available to third parties only through individual lawsuits against the officer, and the employing city. Even then courts place stringent restrictions on who can have access to officers’ personnel records.
Additionally, it is the exception as opposed to the rule, that officer-involved- shooting investigations take less than a year, and in most cases investigations for disciplinary purposes, or for criminal charges against a rogue officer can take years. Yet, in the City of Inglewood, as in many other cities, an upset public is told the investigation will be concluded as quickly as possible, or within weeks, or months. This is a self inflicted wound the City of Inglewood and other cities repeatedly bring upon themselves, and compounds an officer-involve-shooting crisis an already anxious public is attempting to deal with.
The City of Inglewood on more than one occasion promised the general public that it would release the Independent Counsel Review Report. The failure of the Inglewood City Counsel to be straight-forward with its citizens increases the mistrust and lack of confidence by the general public in the Inglewood Police Department when the public has waited so long for the Report.
While it is true that there may be some things in the report that are not subject to public disclosure, the City of Inglewood can disclose its policy failures, if any, in supervising its police staff contained in the report. It can also disclose the Inglewood Police Department use of force policy, and whether it was followed in each case contained in the report. Findings of lack of training, corrections and recommendations should also be revealed. Statements of witnesses and conclusions of the Independent Counsel can be disclosed. These are examples of some of the facts in the Independent Counsel Report that are discloseable, and should be disclosed to the public.
The City of Inglewood has shown slow, but steady progress in moving forward since the astonishing number of officers-involve-shootings within months of each other, which in large part can be contributed to the new Inglewood Chief of Police Jacqueline Seabrook.
If the City of Inglewood wishes to continue the healing process, and building trust in the community it must reveal the facts and conclusions in the Report, as a show of good faith, and as an honest attempt to fix the problem. It must also change the policies and rules to shorten the period allowed for investigation and submission of findings and conclusions of officer-involved-shooting to no longer than 90 days.
Additionally, the citizens of Inglewood and other concerned citizens should join the Los Angeles NAACP in its efforts to change the laws to make public the personnel records of police officers, who are the subject of officers-involved-shootings. The Los Angeles NAACP can be reached on its website at naacp-losangeles.org or its email at [email protected]Â Â Â