LAPD gives insight into investigations on officer-involved shootings

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Tuesday the police commission will release a summary of incidents which the LAPD says will be the most comprehensive report of its kind in the nation after questions were raised over officer shooting investigations. (KABC)

Clashes with Los Angeles Police Officers were up in 2015 and the police commission is concerned.

On Tuesday, the panel will release a summary of incidents which the LAPD said will be the most comprehensive report of its kind in the nation.

Many questions have been raised about whether investigations into the incidents are fair and thorough.

Officials provided Eyewitness News with access to the Force Investigation Unit and an officer who was once in the eye of the storm.

Officer Jerald Case shot a suspect dead who was on a crime spree and attacked a man. Case ended up saving the victim's life. Yet, that did not give Case's shooting a quick stamp of approval.

When there is a fatality, it is a homicide. That officer is sequestered as the prime suspect, and the experience is unnerving.

"When somebody comes in and starts reading your rights and interviewing you like that, you do start feeling, 'OK, this is a little scary,'" Case said.

Partners are separated and they cannot compare notes or make phone calls.

"To make sure they are speaking to each other. They are not trying to get a story straight," said Matt Johnson, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

It is an all-civilian panel which gets the final say on whether a use of force was within policy. Its rulings supersede those of Chief Charlie Beck and the Office of the Inspector General.

The people behind the crime tape are from four separate entities. Most are from FID, LAPD's Force Investigation Division that splits into two units.

One questions whether the officer acted appropriately according to training. The other looks into if the officer committed a crime.

FID is watched by a monitor from the Office of Inspector General. Separately, the district attorney tracks two criminal investigations. One is focused on the suspect who was shot, the other targets the officer.

No one but the Technical Investigation Division can touch the physical evidence. That includes weapons, spent rounds, fingerprints. They trace the path of each bullet.

The tiniest particles on the officer's gun can shift blame.

"For example, if there is an allegation that someone's hand was grabbing the officer's gun, was there DNA on the gun?" Johnson said.

FID seizes video from security cameras and cell phones. They question the officer, witnesses and pull the officer's file. Detectives want to know if the officer has a track record for using force.

The D.A. has limits. The officer has rights and can decline to answer the D.A.'s questions. But inside the LAPD, Beck needs to know if the officer is fit to serve.

The chief can demand answers and the officer cannot refuse.

Case became a sergeant and now trains officers. He said the public would be stunned to know the number of incidents when police don't shoot.

"If officers shot every time that we were legally and within policy to shoot there would probably be a shooting almost every day in this city. But we are trained that that is a last resort," he said.

But there are troubling numbers which the LAPD will soon reveal. According to Johnson, use of force incidents last year were higher than the five year average. The number in 2015 was up significantly from 2014.

He's calling for a deeper analysis of officer training and tactics, seeking ways to de-escalate tensions, save lives and minimize the cost of so many investigations.

"Just because something was in policy doesn't mean there wasn't a way that it could have been done differently to avoid it," he said.
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