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LAPD inspector general vows to trim backlog of police shooting reports [Updated]

May 18, 2010 |  1:32 pm

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

Nicole Bershon, the newly selected inspector general of the Los Angeles Police Commission, told commission members her staff would attempt to publish five of the neglected reports each week in an attempt to erase the entrenched backlog.

Four years ago, the commission that oversees the LAPD instructed Bershon’s predecessor to publish a report on every case in which an officer fires his 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 within department policies. Although limited in the details they provided, the summaries were the only available avenue for the media and public to track the outcome of force investigations.

The inspector general’s office fell behind from the outset and then all but ceased writing the reports last year. Among the unreported decisions are at least a dozen cases in which the commission ruled the officer had improperly used deadly force and should be disciplined, according to a review last week by the Times.

After being questioned about the reports by a Times reporter, commission President John Mack, on the day he announced she would be the new inspector general, directed her to address the issue.

In announcing her plan, Bershon acknowledged the problem, but said there were about 130 cases awaiting reports, instead of 240 cases as claimed in The Times article. The Times review counted cases in which officers accidentally fired their weapons or shot dogs. Those types of incidents, Bershon said, are not subject to the reporting policy.

[Updated, 2:50 p.m.: Richard Tefank, executive director of the commission, said the accidental and animal shootings are, in fact, included under the policy. The Times' tally of 240 backlogged cases is therefore accurate.]

With a depleted staff responsible for completing a wide array of audits and reports, it remains to be seen whether Bershon will be able to maintain her goal of five reports each week while also keeping up with the steady influx of new cases.

Mack said he planned to petition city officials for permission to fill vacancies in the inspector general’s office despite a citywide hiring freeze.

-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters