Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Police Officers Sue City, Say Gangs are Dictating Assignments
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Two Los Angeles police officers sued the city yesterday complaining their superiors took them off gang detail pursuant to a federal consent decree simply because they were so successful at enforcing gang injunctions that gang members filed numerous complaints against them.
Veteran Officers Ryan Moreno and Chuck Garcia sued the city and Police Chief William Bratton in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking to be returned to gang detail and to recover monetary damages.
Los Angeles Attorney Philip Kaplan, who is representing the officers, said the suit highlights the extent to which current consent decree compliance regulations have given gangsters the tools to keep law enforcement out of their neighborhoods, and the extent to which community activists have helped to drive good police officers out of crime-infested neighborhoods.
The gang injunctions make it illegal for two or more gang members to congregate in public, among other actions in defined safety zones.  Gang members caught on the street were issued misdemeanor citations and forced to appear in court, the plaintiffs said in their complaint.
The officers claimed they achieved notable success in using the injunctions to keep gang members out of the troubled Jordan Downs Housing Development in Watts.  They said they were responsible for over 300 arrests, detentions and/or stops within a one year period.
This success led to numerous complaints against the officers by gang members and their supporters, the plaintiffs claim. Kaplan said around 20 complaints were filed against the officers.
About seven of them have been investigated with a finding of no wrong doing, he said. He added that he expects similar findings once the remaining complaints are investigated.
Moreno and Garcia, who have been with the LAPD for about 11 and 13 years, respectively, were reassigned out of the Jordan Downs area in March, separated and put on restricted duties.  Garcia is now on Crime Suppression detail, while Moreno is assigned to Southeast Division’s Burglary Section.
Kaplan said they were also “ordered never to set foot into the safety zones.”
Gary Ingemunson, independent counsel for the LAPPL, which represents the departments nearly 9,000 rank and file officers, said in a release:
“They were handcuffed from doing their job—keeping gang members out of the neighborhood—because the gang members weren’t happy about it.  As long as we are letting gang members and their supporters control the system, we will continue to lose the war against gang violence.”
“Either we have a zero tolerance for gang members, or else they are in charge,” he added.  “It is that simple.”
In 2001 the city entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice after the department notified the city it intended to file a civil suit alleging that the Police Department was engaging in a pattern or practice of excessive force, false arrests and unreasonable searches and seizures, following the Rampart scandal.
Bob Baker, LAPPL president, said in a release:
“This case is just another demonstration that the consent decree has become a model for unintended consequences that do more harm than good. Dedicated officers are being stopped in their tracks by gang members who know how to manipulate the system.”
“It is time for the city leaders to stand up and push back on these unintended consequences that are putting our communities at risk.  We cannot have gang members dictating who works in their neighborhoods.”
Jordan Downs is a 700-unit public housing apartment complex consisting of 103 buildings. The complex is owned and managed by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.
Two rival gangs, the Grape Street Watts Crips and the Bounty Hunter Bloods are responsible for major crime in the area, the complaint alleged. Following the officers’ reassignment, crime rose in the Jordan Downs area, according to the LAPPL release.
The officers are also represented by Elizabeth Silver Tourgeman of the Santa Monica firm Silver, Hadden & Silver. An LAPD spokesperson said the department does not comment on pending litigation. A call to the City Attorney’s Office was not returned.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company