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LAPD watchdog publishes overdue reports on police shootings

September 14, 2010 |  1:54 pm

The independent watchdog of the Los Angeles Police Department on Tuesday reported significant progress on a promise to tackle a backlog of public reports on shootings and other violent encounters with suspects.

Nicole Bershon, inspector general for the Los Angeles Police Commission, told members of the oversight panel that her staff had managed to publish 90 of the overdue reports since a Times article in May highlighted hundreds that had gone neglected under Bershon's predecessor. At the time, Bershon, who had just taken the post, vowed to publish a handful of the reports each week until the backlog was erased.

Four years ago, the commission instructed Bershon's predecessor to publish a report for every case in which an officer fires a weapon, strikes someone on the head or uses other types of serious force.

The reports were to include a summary of the incident and the commission's determination of whether the officer's actions were in line with department policies. Although limited in the details they provide, the summaries are the only available avenue for the media and the public to track the outcome of use-of-force investigations.

The inspector general's office fell behind from the outset and all but ceased writing the reports last year.

The Times article prompted L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks to introduce a motion calling for Bershon and department officials to report to the council on the scope of the problem. Bershon's comments Tuesday came as the commission prepared to respond to Parks' motion. She emphasized how staffing shortages in her office have complicated the effort to clear the backlog.

In a brief interview, Bershon estimated the number of reports remaining to be published at "less than 200."

"Frankly, it's been a matter of competing priorities," said Commission President John Mack. "We're playing catch-up. It's a deep hole, but we're digging ourselves out."

-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters

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