By Frank Stoltze/LAist
Originally published Jun 16, 2021
L.A. District Attorney George Gascón has announced the creation of an outside panel to reexamine fatal police shootings determined to have been lawful by his predecessors.
Along with civil rights attorneys and police practices experts, the group includes two community activists, one of whom is a member of Black Lives Matter-LA — something that will likely cause consternation among Gascón’s critics in law enforcement and elsewhere.
The Factual Analysis Citizen Consulting Team (FACCT) will work with law students from UC Irvine to review cases and determine whether there is any evidence that calls into question the decision not to prosecute, according to the DA’s office.
“Significant concerns have been raised by law enforcement officials, civil rights attorneys, activists and others regarding the handling of numerous police use-of-force cases,” Gascón said in a news release on Wednesday. “In order to restore trust and move forward as a community, I am convening this group to thoroughly review the evidence and make recommendations on cases that we may need to examine more closely.”
Making Good On A Campaign Promise
During his campaign, Gascón pledged to review past police shootings.
FACCT “will identify and prioritize use-of-force cases to review, including those where there is contrary forensic evidence or witness testimony, evidence from a civil or criminal case or impeachment evidence,” the release said.
The panel will not express an opinion on whether charges should be filed against police officers and sheriff’s deputies, according to the release. Instead, it will present cases to the DA’s office, which will decide whether additional investigation is necessary, the matter is assigned to a special prosecutor or criminal charges will be filed.
There have been more than 340 fatal officer shootings since 2012, according to the DA’s office.
A Sheriff’s deputy currently faces a voluntary manslaughter charge for fatally shooting a man in Norwalk in 2016. No other law enforcement officer has been charged in a shooting since 2000.
Prominent Civil Rights Attorneys, Black Lives Matter Rep
The FACCT panel includes UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, former US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Attorney Je Yon Jung, and Melanie Ochoa, senior staff attorney and director of police practices at the ACLU of Southern California.
It also includes police practices experts, including former Sheriff’s Lt. Roger Clark and former Arlington, Texas Police Chief Theron Bowman. Also in the group: Paula Minor of Black Lives Matter-LA and longtime Chicano activist Carlos Montes.
Earlier this year, Gascón announced he intended to hire Lawrence Middleton as a special prosecutor to evaluate whether criminal charges are merited against officers involved in four high-profile police shootings. But the hiring of the former federal prosecutor has been slowed by the county bureaucracy and the need to resolve conflict of interest issues, according to the DA’s spokesman.
As a result of the delays, the statute of limitations on manslaughter charges in three of the four cases Middleton was supposed to review has already expired.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the L.A. Police Protective League — the unions that represent deputies and LAPD cops, respectively — did not immediately return requests for comment.
Here’s the full list of FACCT members:
Civil rights attorneys, scholars and activists:
- Shimica Gaskins — Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, California, and former Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy of the U.S. Department of Justice
- Je Yon Jung — Civil rights attorney; former senior trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Erwin Chemerinsky — Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and constitutional scholar
- Barry Litt — Civil rights attorney and Partner at McLane, Bednarski and Litt, LLP
- Paula Minor — Black Lives Matter-LA organizer and activist
- Carlos Montes — Centro CSO-Chicano activist and organizer; Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council board member
- Melanie Ochoa — Senior staff attorney and Director of Police Practices, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
- Olu Orange — Director of the University of Southern California Dornsife Trial Advocacy Program and the Agents of Change Civil Rights Advocacy Initiative; civil rights attorney at Orange Law Offices, P.C.
- Robert Saltzman — Commissioner, Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commission and West Hollywood Business License Commission; former Commissioner, Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners; former Associate Dean, USC Gould School of Law
Academic law clinics/programs:
- Professor Paul Hoffman — Director Civil Rights Clinic and partner at Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris, & Hoffman, LLP
- Professor Katie Tinto — Director Criminal Justice Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law; former public defender, Alternate Public Defender’s Office of Los Angeles County
- Melanie Partow — Lecturer, Civil Rights Clinic and civil rights attorney
Police practices experts and advisors:
- Theron Bowman — Former Chief of Police Arlington, Texas; former Deputy City Manager/Director Public Safety for Arlington; and CEO, Theron L. Bowman Inc.
- Allwyn Brown — Former Chief of Police, Richmond, California and LERT Ops lead at Tik Tok
- Roger Clark — Former lieutenant, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and CEO, Police Practices Consultant, Inc.
- Frank Fernández — President of Blueprints 4 Safety; former Deputy Chief and Chief of Operations for Miami Police Department; and Public Safety Director for the City of Coral Gables.
This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.