Chief: LA officers in manhunt shooting will return to field duty (updated)

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Update 7:05 a.m. Friday: Chief Beck: Officers didn't have tactical training for assignment.

In his review of the shooting, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck wrote that the sergeants and officers assigned to the protection detail didn’t have the appropriate tactical training for the assignment.

"The ability to address this threat was hindered to some degree due to the experience, training and logistical deployment of the personnel assigned,” Beck wrote.

He also said he was concerned that a lieutenant in charge of the assignment swapped out specialized unit officers because of concern over overtime.

Each officer involved in the shooting was reviewed in the report. One officer who fired 8 rounds said he heard a loud pop from a newspaper hitting the ground that he or she perceived as a gunshot.

"However, assessing that perception objectively, I do not believe it to be a reasonable one,” Beck wrote.

Beck wrote that while the initial firing officers who observed the similar looking truck, he expected based on policy, that the officers make every effort to determine that the truck was in fact Dorner’s.

The two women in the pickup truck were injured in the shooting last year.

Larry Smith is a former police field-training supervisor with 30 years of law enforcement experience, about half of which was spent with the Fontana Police Department. He is often called upon to serve as an expert witness in court cases.

Smith said he believed the officers were probably very nervous and overreacted but said an officer is always held accountable for every shot that’s fired, especially when there are 8 police officers all firing at once.  

“You’re responsible for where that round goes and you need to know what’s behind it,” Smith said.

Smith acknowledged the situation the officers were in was an unusual and tense one that’s taken into consideration, along with an officer’s training and employee record, in determining what kind of discipline he or she would receive for violating department policy.

He said the officer’s bill of rights calls for a layered process of determining discipline against an officer.

“It takes a lot to fire an officer,” he said. “It’s either got to be blatant with negligence or he just didn’t care.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is reviewing the shooting and can decide to file criminal charges.

Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School criminal law professor and former federal prosecutor, said it is very difficult to prosecute and convict a police officer for excessive use of force because there only needs to be a reasonable perception of a legitimate threat to the officers or civilians.

“If [officers] have a reasonable belief of that, even if they’re wrong, that’s not criminal,” she said. “But if they don’t have a reason to believe or if they don’t care about the victim, that’s going to cross the line into criminal behavior.”

Last month, the L.A. district attorney’s office declined to charge two Torrance police officers who mistakenly fired at a man in his pick-up truck during the manhunt for Dorner, minutes after the LAPD shooting and within blocks from that shooting site. The man was not struck by the bullets but was injured in a car crash with the officers.

Original:

Eight officers who mistakenly shot at a pickup truck being driven by two women delivering newspapers during last year's manhunt for ex-cop Christopher Dorner could be allowed to return to the field.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck informed the department via internal communication on Wednesday night that the officers would face extensive retraining before returning to the field, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told KPCC.

In the message, Beck said that the shooting was found to violate department policy, but he has confidence in the officers and their abilities to do their jobs properly, according to The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the message.

Steve Soboroff, president of the police commission, which oversees the LAPD, expressed disappointment that Beck did not issue harsher penalties for the officers, the L.A. Times reports:

Soboroff acknowledged that the authority to discipline belongs to the chief, but said, "With that said, I would have expected more significant discipline for the actions of most of the officers in this incident. I trust that the training will be extensive and the Department and officers will move forward from this tragic incident."

Responding to Soboroff's comment, Beck said on KTLA's morning news Thursday, "Steve is a new police commissioner. We can't comment on police discipline. I'll leave it at that."

Beck said the department would have to look at each officer individually to determine what sort of additional discipline would be appropriate but that under state law he's not allowed to discuss it publicly.

Beck added that there is no officer involved shooting, no matter how justified, that does not involve some aspect of training and that the department would take this opportunity to revisit its training program.

The two women in the pickup truck were injured in the shooting last year.

READ: LAPD report on Torrance shooting

This story has been updated.

With contributions by Tami Abdollah/AP

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