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LAPD captain speaks out on demotion, lawsuit after officers body slam woman

Los Angeles Police Capt. Joseph Hiltner (right) on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, speaks out about his demotion and reassignment as commander of the Foothill Division after a video surfaced of two of his officers body slamming a woman during a traffic stop. His attorney, Steven Brock, looks on.
September 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Over the course of serving the Los Angeles Police Department for 34 years, Capt. Joseph Hiltner rose to the rank of commander at Foothill Division.

Then a disturbing surveillance video from Aug. 21 surfaced. Two of his officers pulled over a woman in Tujunga for using her cellphone. There was a struggle, she was slammed to the ground twice, the second time while she was in handcuffs. Once she was placed in the backseat of the patrol car, the officers appeared to share a celebratory "fist bump."

Hiltner said he does not defend the actions of the officers, but he does defend how he handled the incident, and says Chief Charlie Beck was wrong to demote him two complete ranks and remove him from his post.

"This entire scenario is a total shock to me and it has devastated me," Hiltner said. "It is very, very hurtful."

"The department that I placed tremendous trust in has betrayed me in a way that I can't express," he added.

Beck has said Hiltner failed to take correct action.

"The captain of Foothill was deficient in notifying his boss and me about this occurrence, even though he initiated a personnel complaint. He also did not relieve the officers from field duty," Beck said.

Hiltner and his attorney, Steven Brock, say the incident, while dramatic in the video, did not rise to the level demanding notification of Hiltner's superiors.

The woman in the video, 34-year-old Michelle Jordan, a registered nurse from Sunland, sustained injuries, but Brock said she did not need hospitalization. Rough arrests, says Brock, are not uncommon.

"Perception is important, but perception has to be considered as one of the factors and not all of the factors," said Brock said.

So why the demotion? Hiltner alleges that Beck is retaliating because Hiltner defended an employee who was under fire by Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger and because Hiltner criticized Paysinger's investigation.

Brock said they will file a lawsuit against LAPD officials, alleging a pattern of harassment before the traffic stop incident involving Jordan.

Hiltner said it is all about restoring his reputation.

"To be treated with this much disrespect is very upsetting," Hiltner said.

Calls made to LAPD officials seeking comment were not returned.

The two officers in question were removed from regular duty.


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