Mayor Villaraigosa's new police commission overruled LAPD chief William Bratton and decided that a detective who shot an unarmed burglary suspect was in the wrong. This kind of rebuke hasn't happened often to Bratton, and it may alter expectations as the commission and the LAPD prepare to decide if action is warranted in the shootings of thirteen-year-old car thief suspect Devin Brown and infant girl Suzie Peña. Reports Richard Winton in the Times:
The commission, which the mayor promised would be "vigorous in their oversight" of the LAPD, declined to accept Bratton's recommendation that the detective used proper force as allowed by department policy when he wounded the man last year in Van Nuys.
"This decision was not bound by personalities," commission President John Mack said. "We went where the facts took us. It is nothing personal."
The vote Wednesday reverberated across Los Angeles law enforcement circles, with some fearing that the decision is meant to set a precedent. Bob Baker, head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, expressed concern about the implications of the decision.
"The risk of decisions like this is that they will result in the next officer facing danger to hesitate and get killed," Baker said. "An officer who is risking his life in the pursuit of a dangerous suspect and is forced to make a split-second decision should not be second-guessed with 20/20 hindsight."
Some LAPD critics said they were surprised but pleased by the commission's decision and hoped that the move marked the emergence of a stronger, more independent board.
"These commissioners are showing early they have the courage and conviction to stand up to Chief Bratton when necessary," said Najee Ali, head of Project Islamic Hope, who has led protests of several recent high-profile LAPD shootings. "This is a quite stunning decision. For them to break ranks is a strong sign of their independence and a good sign for civilian oversight."