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Inglewood delays release of report on police shootings, prompting criticism

September 25, 2009 | 11:16 am

Criticism is building in Inglewood over city officials’ decision to delay releasing an independent report on the city’s police department, which came under scrutiny last year in the wake of a spate of fatal police shootings of unarmed suspects.

In a statement last week, the city council announced it had received the report by the County’s Office of Independent Review, a civilian oversight group, but was withholding it from public release because of attorney-client privilege in legal matters involving the police department.

The council did not specify when the report will be released, only stating that it will “eventually” be made public in its entirety.

The report will mark the first independent, external assessment of the department since the shootings, in which officers shot and killed four men over a span of four months in 2008. Three of those suspects were unarmed. 

The U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division is also investigating the policies and procedures of the Inglewood Police Department. The L.A. County District Attorney’s office and the FBI have opened inquiries into specific shootings.

Community activists and other citizens in Inglewood criticized the delays in releasing the report, saying residents are eager for the findings to be released so they can be assured the department is taking steps to make reforms where necessary.

“The public has a right to know,” said Erin Kaplan, an Inglewood resident and freelance journalist who has written about issues plaguing the South Bay city. “We’re all on pins and needles … there is an unease about the department.”

Kaplan said the council was being “shortsighted” by withholding the report. She said making the findings public will answer the public’s questions about the department and help restore the loss in trust between citizens and the police force.

City attorney Cal Saunders declined to answer a reporter’s questions about why the report falls under the attorney-client privilege, or what pending legal matters against the police were barring the report’s release.

The yearlong review that led to the report began after the third in the series of shootings. Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review, said his office closely followed the investigation and reaction following the fourth shooting, in which officers fired more than 40 rounds at a homeless man who had a replica of a gun in his waistband.

After a process of comments and revisions, the final report was completed and given to the city council sometime last month, he said. “The city has got to decide if and when to release it,” Gennaco said. “The ball’s in their court.”

Inglewood’s Citizen Police Oversight Commission, a civilian oversight panel, also has yet to receive the findings. Adrianne Sears, the commission’s president, said her group has requested a copy from the city council but hasn’t received a response.

She said members of both the oversight commission and the general public have been asking her about the report

“Everybody is waiting and waiting to see what this report says,”Sears said.

-- Victoria Kim

Read The Times investigation of the Inglewood police. 

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