LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is deeply disturbed by the Los Angeles County district attorney's decision not to prosecute an El Monte police officer who clearly violated the law by brutally kicking a suspect in the head even though the suspect posed no physical threat.
The following statement can be attributed to Peter Bibring, ACLU/SC staff attorney:
“The ACLU/SC appreciates the difficult, split-second decisions police must make in the heat of the moment. But while we give police officers great authority to detain, arrest, and even use force against Los Angeles county residents, that authority must be used lawfully. Here, video news footage on which the district attorney based its decision clearly shows that El Monte Police Officer George Fierro crossed the line of unlawful conduct when he charged at a suspect that was lying prone on the ground and kicked his head like a soccer ball.”
“As egregious as Fierro's unjustified blow to the suspect's head is, the district attorney's abdication of oversight responsibility in prosecuting police abuse cases is more troubling.
The district attorney's report isn't the adrenaline-fueled act of an officer after a car chase, but the considered decision of an agency charged with deciding what's legal and illegal after careful review of the evidence. The report goes beyond simply declining to prosecute, and bends over backwards to justify the officer's use of force. By effectively endorsing such a high-profile, flagrant violation, the district attorney's office gives a signal to police officers that they will face no consequences for unlawful uses of force.”
“In the case of officer Fierro, the district attorney suggests that he was justified in kicking the suspect in the head as a „distraction strike - because the suspect looked at him as he approached. But despite a prolonged and dangerous car chase, there was no impending threat on the officer once the suspect was cornered in a fenced yard, lying prone on the ground, with additional officers arriving seconds behind. The troubling conclusion raises serious questions about the judgment of the Justice System Integrity Division of the district attorney's office and its handling of police abuse cases in general.”
“Police abuse in Los Angeles County will continue until the district attorney's office holds officers to governing legal standards.”