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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Echo Park forced to wait and watch during “use of force” probe

The closure of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue for more than eight hours on Saturday night left many residents mystified. The Eastsider reported that the LAPD blocked off the intersection after an officer knocked down a suspect – who was carrying a gun – to the ground shortly after 4 PM. The suspect and another male were quickly arrested, no shooting took place and no one suffered major injuries. So, why were investigators still on the scene and the street still closed after 11 PM? The LAPD said the confrontation between the officer and suspect triggered a “use of force” investigation. But many residents remained unsatisfied, including one person on the EchoElysian Forum:

“Something’s fishy here…there is no way they would
keep the street closed for over 5 hours because they arrested 2 guys with concealed weapons. There is something bigger happening that they are not telling us about.”

But the LAPD insists there was nothing unusual about the time consuming probe. Except this one took place at a busy intersection in full public view. “The officers do not like standing in the street waving away annoyed motorists any more than you like being turned away,” said Lt. Wes Buhrmester with the Rampart Division. “We apologize for the inconvenience, however it is necessary to ensure proper investigation of the incident.”

Click on link to read Buhrmester’s explanation of the investigation into what police call a “categorical use of force.”

What happened in this case was a “Categorical Use of Force.” Certain types of uses of force require a full investigative response, equivalent to an officer-involved shooting. This is per the Consent Decree. For example, hitting a suspect on the head intentionally with a blunt impact tool (flashlight, radio, baton), an upper body control (erroneously historically referred to as a “choke hold”; the suspect is not choked or asphyxiated, but the arteries on the side of the neck are constricted, resulting in potential unconsciousness), a police dog bite requiring hospitalization, and any use of force by an officer that results in a suspect’s admittance to a hospital will result in the response of our Force Investigation Division.

As with a shooting, the scene is locked down, evidence including forensic evidence is collected, all involved officers are interviewed on tape with employee representatives, our Scientific Investigation Division responds, and so on. That was the reason for the extended street closures on Saturday. We apologize for the inconvenience, however it is necessary to ensure proper investigation of the incident, as well as compliance with the Consent Decree’s philosophies and our policy. Believe me (I’ve been there in my younger days, many times), the officers do not like standing in the street waving away annoyed motorists any more than you like being turned away.

PS: “Non-Categorical” uses of force, anything else, are done by field supervisors. For example, even if a suspect has a gun, let’s say he’s thrown to the ground or pushed against a wall or punched by an officer, if the suspect isn’t hospitalized or none of the categorical conditions are met, a field supervisor investigates the propriety of the use of force, and policy considerations and necessity.


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