Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Loyal readers of the Clarion Content know that we are all over the police beat when they are doing something nefarious. As we have expressed in the past, we are concerned about what appears to be a shift in the police ethic, from "protect and serve" to "enforce." It is this worry, combined with a sense of the media's increasing complicity, (see: the media's sycophantic performance in Iraq, cravenly following the will of the powers that be,) that has us increasingly conscious of blowing the whistle on the cops whenever possible.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is rife with such opportunities. Whistleblowing has a crucial social function, curtailing bad and unethical behavior. Thinking one or one's organization will get caught has a deterrent effect. Publicizing other organizations that do get caught hopefully empowers folks that know that they are getting screwed by the man to keep fighting for their cause, keep striving to be heard/noticed.

The latest incident the Clarion Content ran across was a blatant case of attempted coercion. It is reported on in full in the LA Times here. The short story is Los Angeles Police Department SWAT teams accidentally killed an nineteen month old kid during a hostage situation where she was being held at gunpoint by her father. It was a tragic accident and we are not here to excoriate the LAPD or their SWAT officers for it. Rather our disgust is about the questionable activities of the LAPD hierarchy after the shooting.

Apparently, before this horrible incident in 2005, LAPD SWAT had never killed a hostage. In this case SWAT had mistakenly thought the gunmen had been wounded by their sniper. He was not, he opened fire on SWAT as they stormed the building where he had barricaded himself. In the exchange of gunfire, nineteen month old Suzie Peña was killed.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office examined the death and found the cause to be a high-velocity bullet fired from one of the SWAT members' rifles. The LAPD did not want to accept that verdict. They intensely lobbied the forensic pathologists at the coroner's office to reverse their verdict. They let a non-medically trained criminologist pursue any means necessary to prove their desired theory that the father, not SWAT had killed the child. They tasked an assistant police chief to lead the lobbying of the coroner's office. They searched the country to find an outside doctor who would reexamine the case. Unfortunately when they did, Dr. William Oliver, a forensic pathologist at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that, "There is little or no good evidence that the wound is from . . . a handgun," (the father's weapon.)

As the LA Times quotes an American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson, "the public has to be able to have faith that when the department goes the extra mile like this that it is about accuracy instead of exonerating officers."

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