Chaos Reigns at LAPD Commission Meeting

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A police commission hearing in Los Angeles descended into chaos Tuesday after the civilian panel’s vice president tried and failed to eject two members of the public and scolded the panel’s newest black commissioner.
     Commissioner Steve Soboroff rankled a raucous audience of Black Lives Matter activists, who disrupted the meeting to express anger at a series of fatal police shootings, when he pulled rank on Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill.
     Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed McClain-Hill to the civilian oversight panel earlier this year. She had recently called for a review of how the department handles complaints of racial profiling, according to the Los Angeles Times.
     Soberoff’s frustration was obvious as officers appeared unwilling or unable to remove two members in the packed meeting room who were shouting him down.
     When McClain-Hill interjected, Soboroff turned on her.
     “I’ve got the gavel,” he said, glowering at an incredulous McClain-Hill. The crowd drowned him out with roars of disapproval.
     The chaotic scenes preceded a closed session in which the commission found that three officers were at fault for shooting and killing homeless man James Byrd in Van Nuys and mentally ill woman Norma Guzman close to downtown.
     Activist Jaime Garcia had been talking about Guzman during a public comment period but was interrupted by Soboroff when she went over her allotted time.
     Soboroff grew agitated as he asked for the next speaker to come to the podium, but members of audience talked over him and yelled “Shut up, Steve.”
     The audience showered Soboroff with expletives when he gave them a final warning. The commissioner asked the officers to eject the two members from the meeting room. Officers shifted but took no action, leaving Soboroff chafing.
     He called the meeting to a halt and other officials stood and filed out of the room, their ears ringing with chants of “Rise Up! Resist! Need no killer cops, no jails! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!”
     McClain-Hill did not follow her fellow officials’ lead, though, remaining in the room to talk to the activists, albeit with a line of LAPD officers below her.
     “He disrespected you,” someone in the crowd said.
     “You’ve got to understand something. I don’t care,” McClain-Hill said.
     “We do!” members of the crowd replied.
     “If we’re going to make any progress — and there’s only so much we can do — there’s a lot that’s required to change any system,” McClain-Hill pleaded with the crowd.
     She assured them that the commission was going to meet to discuss racial profiling and bias and the panel would notify the public.
     “The entire commission agreed. We’re trying. It’s not perfect. It’s slow,” she said.
     The crowd remained skeptical. A young black man asked why the police had formed a line in front of the commissioner, leading McClain-Hill to plead with the police to move to the side. They ignored her pleas.
     “They look at you like you’re us,” audience member Lisa Simpson said.
     Simpson had earlier castigated Chief Charlie Beck for the fatal police shooting of her son Richard Risher. Beck too left the meeting early as the crowd called for him to be fired.
     McClain-Hill’s colleagues returned briefly to officially adjourn the meeting. They proceeded to a closed session to discuss whether the shootings of Guzman and Bryd were justified.
     The panel that one officer who had used deadly force against Guzman had acted outside department policy. Guzman, who was killed on Sept. 27, 2015, was known in the community as suffering from mental health issues and was holding a knife when the officers encountered her, according to the Los Angeles Times.
     Officers Zachary Goldstein and Andrew Hacoupian shot and killed homeless man James Bryd on Oct. 3, 2015. The commission faulted the officers for the shooting.
     Bryd had lobbed a beer bottle at the back window of their patrol car, shattering it. Believing they were under fire, the officers responded by shooting him, the Times had reported.
     Also on Tuesday morning, the surviving family members of Wakiesha Wilson said they had lodged a $35 million claim against the city. Wilson was found hanging in her cell in March.
     The coroner’s office ruled the death a suicide but her family suspect foul play. They were present at the morning hearing at LAPD headquarters, holding up framed pictures of Wilson.

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