Police secrecy is risking the future of reform, the ACLU/SC said in a statement to Los Angeles leaders. On Jan. 8, a review panel issued a report exonerating the officer who shot 13-year-old Devin Brown in 2005. The report was initially squelched because of a state Supreme Court case the ACLU/SC opposed.
"American justice is done in the open, but the conduct of LAPD officers is now judged in secrecy," said the statement. The ACLU/SC called for the Police Commission, L.A.'s elected leaders, and its police chief to strongly support state legislation to reopen the discipline process, and local measures to strengthen the Police Commission, which is responsible for L.A. police policies.
The California Supreme Court ruled last year that details of police conduct were now off-limits to civilian review boards, newspapers, and the public. Across the state, reform efforts in place for 30 years have been hobbled. Oakland and San Francisco police commissions no longer hold public disciplinary hearings or identify officers facing termination or lengthy suspensions for misconduct.
In L.A., the shooting of Brown as he backed a car toward police officers prompted a change in L.A.'s use-of-force policy to prevent firing at moving cars. The Police Commission and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the shooting "out of policy" and recommended discipline for the officer involved.
But the closed-door ruling reversing that recommendation raises doubts about the city's commitment to reform.
"Transparency could have helped heal the grief and outrage sparked by this tragic shooting," said ACLU/SC executive director Ramona Ripston. "Reform is built on trust between the community and police. That trust is in jeopardy."