Jun 23, 2003
Last month, an LAPD panel responsible for disciplining police officers quietly decided that Edward Larrigan, the cop who had shot and killed Margaret Mitchell, a homeless, mentally ill woman four years ago, need not face any punishment. This decision contradicts a previous ruling on the case made by the Los Angeles Police Commission, which is supposed to oversee policy violations in the LAPD.
The incident sparked protests, especially in the black community. As a result of this outrage, the City Council settled a lawsuit by Mitchell's family for nearly one million dollars – in itself an admission that the killing was unjustified. Within a year of the incident, the Police Commission found the shooting "out of policy" and ordered the LAPD to discipline Larrigan accordingly.
Then came the usual delaying tactics that the police department always uses to avoid punishing one of their own. The police department stalled for THREE years, supposedly deciding how to punish this trigger-happy cop. In the end, the decision was not to punish him at all, and not to announce it either – which was revealed a month later by the Los Angeles Times.
The L.A. Police Commission, whose members are appointed by the City Council, was advertised as a civilian watchdog over the police department and as a cure to police brutality. This commission was established because of community outrage at the endless cases of police brutality which cops got away with because there was no authority to punish them other than the LAPD itself.
As this incident shows, all this was nothing but a meaningless show. The Police Commission can decide whatever it wants, but it has no power to enforce its decisions. The final, and real, decision is made by a panel of two cops and one civilian – in other words, by the LAPD itself!