Los Angeles police officers' use of force in the fatal shooting of a black woman last August was "within policy," although some of the officers' tactics were not, the city's Board of Police Commissioners decided Tuesday.
The commission, agreeing with the recommendation of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, determined that the officers were justified in "drawing and exhibiting" their weapons and using lethal force in the shooting death of Redel Kentel Jones, 30, last August. However, the commission stated that the officers' tactics — their methods in approaching Jones — "warrant a finding of Administrative Disapproval."
Black Lives Matter activists immediately denounced the decision.
“I don’t care if she was armed with a kitchen knife,” said Melina Abdullah, a professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills. “I could wrestle a kitchen knife away from a 4-foot 10-inch woman.”
Jones was shot and killed by LAPD officers who said she approached them with a knife after they confronted her while responding to a report of a robbery at a drug store.
A crowd of about 100 people that had gathered outside police headquarters immediately erupted in chants of Redel Jones’ name when they heard the decision. They then marched to City Hall and blocked the main east entrance to the building.
LAPD patrol units, with lights flashing and sirens blaring, roared up Main Street in response. Officers in riot helmets jumped out and appeared to be ready to clear the protesters.
“They are treating us, the people that live in this city, as if we are enemy forces,” said Angela James through a megaphone.
But the officers soon backed off.
As of 4 p.m. City Hall’s doors remained locked, with a line of officers just inside the glass doors.
Tuesday's commission meeting was disrupted briefly when protesters in the audience began loudly chanting slogans denouncing police killings of African-Americans. Police officers formed a line to separate the chanting protesters from commissioners.
@LAPDChiefBeck laments loud protestors, argues they don't want dialogue.— Frank Stoltze (@StoltzeFrankly) July 12, 2016
Police Chief Charlie Beck said the actions of the protesters showed they did not want a dialogue with police.
Jones was shot and killed on the afternoon of Aug. 12, after officers were called to the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw neighborhood to investigate reports that a woman with a knife had robbed the Stocker Rx Pharmacy. Just 20 minutes later, at about 2 p.m., police tried to stop Jones. At the time, police said she fit the description of the suspect.
Jones fled into a nearby alley, and then "suddenly turned toward the officers,” according to an LAPD statement. The officers used a Taser on Jones, but it “did not appear to have an effect” on her.
Officers opened fire when Jones “began to advance toward one of the officers while still armed with the knife,” police said. She died at the scene.
Marcus Vaughn, husband of Jones, said he traveled from Oakland to urge the police commission to change LAPD policies because they don't work. "They only result in murder and separations of families," he said.
Vaughn also called for the policeman involved in his wife's death to be "prosecuted to the full extent of the law." He said the police version of events that his wife brandished a knife is a lie.
"They are covering it up. They are trying to save their own selves by claiming she was involved in criminal action," he said.
In addition to the protests inside the meeting, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside police headquarters.
A look at past LA police commission rulings
Out-of-policy rulings are fairly rare, though not unheard-of. In rulings handed down from 2011 through 2015, the police commission more often found that officers' "tactics" were inappropriate. Far less often, commissioners found that use of lethal force was out of policy.
In 2011, for instance, the commission found nine officers out of policy for tactics but only two out of policy for lethal force.
Below is a chart tracking the commission's rulings during that time period, though a couple things should be noted first:
- Of the 12 officers found out of policy in 2013 for using lethal force, eight were involved in one incident.
- A majority of the 2015 incidents had yet to appear before the police commission when the data was gathered.
(Source: Data via the 2015 LAPD Year-end Review of Use of Force)
Board of Police Commissioners' report
This story has been updated.