Patterico's Pontifications

1/13/2007

L.A. Times Buries Story on Transcript of Devin Brown Findings

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 2:24 pm



After giving repeated front-page coverage to the Devin Brown shooting and its aftermath, the L.A. Times has buried news that paints the officer’s actions in a sympathetic light. Yesterday, Officer Steven Garcia, who had been charged in a Board of Rights proceeding with misconduct relating to the shooting, released a transcript setting forth the Board of Rights’s compelling rationale for finding him not guilty of misconduct. I reported this last night, and summarized the extensive findings.

So how does the L.A. Times report this news? As you will see, they got verrrry creative.

Although the shooting has occasioned front-page coverage numerous times in the past — including a recent front-page story decrying the fact that the findings were made in secret — the release of the actual findings doesn’t make it onto the front page, which says not one word about the release of the transcript. Instead, Page A1 alludes to a different story about the officer, about a past suspension the officer had received in the past — at which time he was warned that any further transgressions would likely result in his dismissal. This, and not the Board of Rights’s findings, are what the editors consider to be today’s real news. Here’s the bottom of today’s front page:

lapd-officer-warned.JPG

(The editors didn’t circle that part, of course — I did.)

And when you turn to Section B, that’s the story that gets front-page play on Page B1: the story about the officer’s previous discipline. (For what it’s worth, I think that there is a valid concern raised by the story, as I’ll explain in the extended entry.) That article mentions the release of the findings, and says that the officer was “compelled” to release them by the “tumult” of recent days:

The tumult Friday even compelled Garcia to waive his privacy rights and agree to release a transcript explaining the board’s reasoning.

Nonsense. I’ll bet reporter Scott Glover a steak dinner that, if you asked Garcia why he released the findings, he would tell you it’s because he wanted the public to know them, because they show he did nothing wrong. That’s quite different from being “compelled” to release them.

You have to turn aaaaaaallllllllll the way back to Page B10 to read the story about the transcript of the findings. Keep in mind: on Wednesday, the paper had a Page A1 story about the Board’s decision, which loudly decried the fact that the Board’s findings had been kept secret. Now that the transcript of the findings has been released, it’s page B10 news. What kind of logic allows the paper to complain about the secrecy of the findings on Page A1, but to put the story about the actual findings themselves on Page B10?

I called my conservative friend alert reader Hank K. this morning to ask him about the placement of the story. Hank may be the last conservative in the County who still subscribes. He had seen the story about the paper’s prior discpline, but not the one about the release of the findings. He even knows that the paper buries news it doesn’t like on the back pages, but, like most readers, he doesn’t read every article in every section. So he never made it past the jump, and didn’t see the story about the release of the findings.

This is what most readers do. And don’t kid yourself: the editors know this.

The few readers who make it to Page B10 are confronted by a story that puts an anti-police spin on the findings from the get-go:

The Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot 13-year-old Devin Brown publicly released transcripts Friday from a meeting in which a disciplinary panel cleared him of wrongdoing.

The panel’s decision, reached earlier this week, outraged some city leaders because it was made in secret and rejected the civilian Police Commission’s finding that the shooting by Officer Steven Garcia was unjustified.

When you’re deciding what to put high in the story, it’s naturally more important to emphasize the outrage of city leaders than it is to focus on the findings themselves. Right? That’s just good journalism!

The story fails to note the most compelling evidence in Garcia’s favor. As I said in my post:

The Captain who read the Board’s unanimous findings stated that, after a visit to the scene, “We were all amazed that Officer Garcia was able to avoid being struck and killed or being seriously injured by the Camry.” He said that the Board members “could easily relate to the fear and anguish Garcia must have felt.” Not only did numerous officers testify that they believed that Officer Garcia had been in mortal danger, but a civilian witness testified: “If that police hadn’t jumped out of the way, he would have been hit.”

These compelling, seemingly newsworthy quotes don’t make it into the article. Nor does the story report the fact that the Board found that all 10 shots had been fired in less than two seconds.

But you gotta report some of the truth, and the article does. The story does set forth the fact the Department had admitted in its opening that the first several shots were in policy. The article gives fair emphasis to the fact that the entire incident happened in four seconds. And it describes the testimony of the expert on human reactions in stressful situations.

In a typical display of the paper’s lack of attention to the possibilities opened up by its web site, the web version of the story does not link the transcript itself.

The bottom line is this: the paper has been dragging this officer through the mud for almost two years in numerous stories on the front page. But when he’s vindicated, the paper spins the vindication as secret — and when it’s no longer secret, then they simply bury it.

“Amazing!” I said to alert reader Hank K. when we spoke on the telephone.

He replied: “You know, you keep being amazed by the same stuff.”

In the extended entry, I discuss the relevance of Officer Garcia’s past misconduct, and my feelings regarding the secrecy of these proceedings.

Today’s article on Officer Garcia’s past misconduct raises a valid issue, but it’s not the issue the paper chooses to emphasize. Here’s how the story opens:

A Los Angeles Police Department captain who voted not to discipline Officer Steven Garcia this week in the shooting of 13-year-old Devin Brown had warned him in a previous disciplinary case that one more offense would probably get him fired.

Yet that history was ignored in the Board of Rights hearing on Brown’s death because LAPD rules typically do not allow an officer’s past misconduct to be considered.

The article presents that as a conundrum: Officer Garcia was warned before that one more offense would result in his dismissal — yet he wasn’t dismissed, and the previous offense wasn’t even considered!

But if you think about it for two seconds, it’s not a conundrum at all — because Officer Garcia was exonerated by the Board of Rights. In other words, he didn’t commit that “one more offense” that should have resulted in his dismissal, because the Board found that he had acted properly.

To take an analogy: if a criminal defendant is a third-striker, he has been told that one more felony offense may result in his being incarcerated for life. But if he didn’t commit that new felony offense, then his criminal history doesn’t really matter. You can’t send him away for his history alone. He has to commit a new crime to merit new punishment. And, as a general rule, juries don’t even get to hear about the past history when considering his guilt as to the current offense.

But I agree with the evident position of the L.A. Times that it’s wrong for the Board of Rights to categorically reject evidence of past misconduct in these hearings. I also agree with the statements of Inspector General Andre Birotte (full disclosure: I have met Andre and respect him):

Andre Birotte Jr., the LAPD’s civilian watchdog, said the department’s rules about what constitutes admissible prior conduct are too restrictive.

Regardless of whether there’s a pattern, Birotte said, offenses such as lying or very specific acts alleged more than once should be made known to those sitting in judgment.

“It’s a tricky issue,” Birotte said, however. “It should be determined on a case-by-case basis.”

Indeed. And it’s arguable that, in Officer Garcia’s case, his previous discipline should have been considered to some degree. According to the article, he had been found guilty at a Board of Rights of trying to dissuade his ex-girlfriend from testifying at that Board of Rights (a different one — not the one relating to the Devin Brown shooting), and of disobeying a direct order not to talk with her about that other case. He had also been accused and found not guilty of lying to investigators about this. I’m not expressing an opinion as to whether that evidence should have been considered, as I don’t know all the facts, but given that Officer Garcia testified at this latest Board of Rights hearing, I see a good argument that this evidence should have been considered as it related to his credibility.

Also, I agree generally with the L.A. Times that Board of Rights proceedings should be public — especially one regarding a complaint of excessive force, and especially one where 13-year-old child died. But if they’re going to be public, they deserve better coverage than they would get from the L.A. Times.

20 Responses to “L.A. Times Buries Story on Transcript of Devin Brown Findings”

  1. Hey Jake (Patterico), it’s Chinatown (LAT)!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  2. Why would anyone think the transcript is a good thing? It makes almost no sense at all, is full of contradictions, and was obviously an attempt by the police to justify the shooting of an unarmed driver who can’t even be called a suspect of anything worse than speeding and DUI. Neither of which offenses carry the death penalty. The fact that he turned out to be a 13 year old is beside the point. Even if the driver of the car was an adult, and was guilty of driving drunk, and was guilty of backing up his car in a panic, he still didn’t deserve to be shot. Seven times. Which the report never mentions, by the way. Seven of those ten shots hit Brown.

    Doesn’t it strike anybody as odd that nowhere in that transcript does it ever question the fact that Officer Garcia fired his weapon at all? Or that it in no way takes Brown’s state of mind into consideration? Talk about one sided. It goes to great lengths to detail Garcia’s state of mind and reflexes and reactions. It never questions the fact that he decided to shoot. It only questions how many times he shot his weapon and when he stopped shooting.

    And what about the time frame? It takes 2 seconds to fire 10 rounds. But then they question why none of them hit the rear window when Garcia said that’s what he was aiming at. Why was he even aiming at the rear window? Did he think the car itself was trying to kill him? Why would they even try to deflect the fact that he must have been aiming at the driver? What else would he aim at? And even if he WAS aiming at the rear window, why would the fact that he missed it be an issue when the rest of the report goes to such great lengths to explain how fast the car was moving?

    Nobody deserves to die for a traffic violation but too many cops seems to think they do because they keep killing people and then using the excuse that the car was the deadly weapon.

    Oh, and any gun that can fire 10 bullets in 2 seconds without the person thinking about it should not be in the hands of any police officer.

    Since the transcript did not say how many bullets actually hit the boy, I Googled it and found it here:

    Not bad, huh? 10 shots fired in 2 seconds by an officer afraid for his life and he managed to hit the driver 7 times.

    Jayine59 (78bac9)

  3. I question the 10 shots in (was the maximum time frame in the transcript 4.9 seconds?) too, Javine59. But I think the bigger issue is do we have have policemen with balls that clank when they walk or do we have policemen who share “the fear and anguish Garcia must have felt” and consequently fire ten shots in the throes of that fear and anguish consequently killing a thirteen-year old child attempt murderer (I give the transcript the full benefit of the doubt). Maybe people who whose job is to confront violent situations but suffer “fear and anguish” when they do should not be doing that job.

    [If any of you tried reading the transcript, or even my post, before opining, you’d know the Board found that the 10 shots happened in under 2 seconds. And your insinuation that a cop is a coward if he experiences fear upon a car being gunned towards him? Beyond offensive. — P]

    nk (41da82)

  4. Pattterico, I’m sorry, but my giving the officer 4.9 seconds for ten shots was in his favor — giving him the maximum benefit of the doubt. 10 shots in 2 seconds is 300 hundred rounds per minute which is squad machine gun rate (M-60 you gun nuts?) I will not claim it impossible for a police officer’s service pistol but perhaps you can test whether you can squeeze a tennis ball 10 times within 2 seconds?

    And I am not sure that I insinuated cowardice. We all have the fight or flight response. How we handle it is what determines whether we should carry guns and have the privilege of shooting our fellow citizens at our discretion.

    (I did confess that I was trolling and you said that you allow all kinds of stupid arguments on this site 😉 )

    [I just have no idea where you get 4.9 seconds, when the Board of Rights found the shots were fired in under 2 seconds. Do the facts matter to you? Or are you content to make up your own? — P]

    nk (06f5d0)

  5. Maybe my math is bad. I read the entire transcript twice and added up the various allegations of time frames. Maybe it’s only as little as four seconds. I find the conclusion of two seconds for ten shots unbelievable. Forget the tennis ball. Try to open and close your hand ten times in two seconds. But even that is besides the point. You have monstrous murderers in California waiting twenty-five years for the needle. This kid was tried, convicted, sentenced to death and executed in two seconds? We are making the circle to the issue whether the police are soldiers at war with anyone who is not a policeman.

    nk (06f5d0)

  6. NK,

    Devin Brown wasn’t tried and executed in 4 seconds. Officer Garcia defended himself in 4 seconds. To do that, he had to shoot Devin Brown but that doesn’t make Devin’s death an execution.

    DRJ (51a774)

  7. Only a little farther along the circle, DRJ. Do we pay the police to protect us or to kill us? I know, I know. Real question: Do we pay them to be protective and even solicitous of our lives even when we try to kill them?

    nk (06f5d0)

  8. Jayine59:
    obviously an attempt by the police to justify the shooting of an unarmed driver who can’t even be called a suspect of anything worse than speeding and DUI.

    Unarmed?

    Controlling a machine capable of killing any human in it’s path? (Even aside from what it’s doing to Al Gore’s Earth!)

    Unarmed?

    Unix-Jedi (59a051)

  9. nk:
    This kid was tried, convicted, sentenced to death and executed in two seconds? We are making the circle to the issue whether the police are soldiers at war with anyone who is not a policeman.

    I’m all for discussion of the last part of that quote – it’s a discussion that I think is long overdue.

    But this does not seem to be the case that would support that. The “Time frame” for this was hardly 2 seconds – this was a time frame that played out over a much longer time frame (I’m recalling from memory, and I’m not local to CA) – the initial theft, the fleeing from the police, the loss of control, and then the continued attempt to run away, including running down police officers in the way.

    That’s something to remember – the “final” time frame you refer to was very compressed and short – and it’s one the deceased forced everyone else into.

    As to the physics of rapid fire: Actually, the M-60 is rated at 600-700 RPM, nominally, as I recall. The old M3 Grease Gun .45 submachine gun was rated at 400-450, and “single shots” were able to be made with trigger control.

    10 shots in 4.9 seconds is easy for most anyone to do with minor training. In 3 seconds, not impossible. The difference between 2 and 5 seconds in a situation such as this to observers?

    There’s a lot to reflect upon about this case, IMO. The use of deadly force is way down on the list. The reaction of the community, the media, the lionization of the deceased (killed during a felony), demonization of the responding officers.. Those are far higher on my list of what’s important here.

    Unix-Jedi (59a051)

  10. Maybe my math is bad. I read the entire transcript twice and added up the various allegations of time frames. Maybe it’s only as little as four seconds.

    Page 10, lines 18-22.

    1.8 seconds.

    Patterico (a8fa4a)

  11. NK #7:

    Do we pay them to be protective and even solicitous of our lives …

    Yes.

    … even when we try to kill them?

    No.

    DRJ (51a774)

  12. I’m stopping.

    nk (77d95e)

  13. When a horrific crime occurs and the police and prosecuters are competent and fortunate enough to investigate and make a quick arrest, there is a perp walk, a press conference, and applause. When a jittery police officer murders a teen driver or a crazy homeless woman wielding a scissors, those same spokespeople warn against a rush to judgment, call for everyone to await the results of a thorough investigation that takes years, and then buys into the excuses and justifications.

    nosh (ee9fe2)

  14. I was in a practical pistol club for a while in the 80’s. Believe me, there are plenty of people who can put 10 rounds in the 10 ring in under 2 seconds. One of the guys I shot with could draw, double-tap a 6″ round metal plate before it fell over, adjust position and triple-tap a man-shape target (two in the heart, one in the mind), then triple-tap a “running man” moving target, all at a range of 10 yards and in less than 4 seconds.

    Dubya (c16726)

  15. One of the guys I shot with could draw, double-tap a 6″ round metal plate before it fell over, adjust position and triple-tap a man-shape target (two in the heart, one in the mind), then triple-tap a “running man” moving target, all at a range of 10 yards and in less than 4 seconds.

    I’m reasonably sure I’m straight, but I’d have asked that guy out on a date after seeing that.

    OHNOES (3b3653)

  16. 10 shots in 2 seconds….
    The Smith & Wesson Co. has a professional marksmanship team, one member of which is a gentleman whose specialty is to hit his target six times, reload his Mdl 625 REVOLVER, and hit the target an additional 6 times, all within THREE (3) seconds.
    I would think that after 40-years of arguement over whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald could get off those three or four shots he took (he could & did) in Dallas in the 10-12 seconds the evidence showed was the elapsed time, we would know that people who train with firearms can be quite competent with them.
    As I have posted earlier on this subject, if there are any problems they will be brought out, I am confident, by the US Atty. It would be very difficult to cover-up any wrong-doing with the Federal oversight that the LAPD has at this time.
    Plus, I am sure that in the spirit on Sen Boxer’s thoughts on accountability and paying-the-cost, it would behoove those without firearms experience to cease commenting on matters that they have no knowledge of.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  17. On one segment of American Shooter Bob Munden fired 2 shots and hit two separate, 14″ x 24″ steel targets with .45 caliber bullets so quickly that the shots could not be recorded by a computer timer. (He used a single-action cowboy type revolver. I remember from my shooting days that he preferred Ruger Blackhawks that he had modified.)

    nk (5a2f98)

  18. The comments referring to the death of the criminal (suspect) Brown, who did his best to endanger everyone on the road during his attempt to evade the police, as an “execution” are contemptible.

    The cops put their lives on the line to protect us from scum like Brown, sometimes paying the ultimate price.

    When it happens that the story ends with the bad guy at (or near) room temperature and the cop uninjured, that’s the criminal justice equivalent of “And they lived happily ever after.”

    In my jurisdiction, we prosecute people who use their cars to drive at pedestrians as ADW (assault with a deadly weapon) — at a minimum.

    If the circumstances warrant, attempted murder is not out of the question.

    Anyone — cop or civilian — when facing a driver intent on running them down is justified in the use of deadly force to end the attack.

    I’ve no sympathy — none — for the would-be cop-killer Brown.

    Or should I say, the ex would-be cop killer.

    That the LA Times would bury the story is no surprise. Would anyone care to hazard a guess as to the story placement if the transcript had revealed Officer Garcia’s actions as unjustified?

    Front page, baby.

    Reason 4,782 to cancel your subscription.

    Mike Lief (e6260e)

  19. The most important fact in this incident was never reported by the LA Slimes or any paper. Devin Brown was not some misunderstood kid, he was a 54 Van Ness gangster, Moniker of “Lil Willie Gangster”! And shame on you, the media and his pathetic excuse of a parent! The photo that your cronies keep trotting out in the media is of when he was 8, not the most recent which is of him gesticulating his gang signsper.

    Also, John Mack, the pres of police commission hosted a fundraiser for a twice convicted felon Martin Ludlow so he’s the most competent to be deciding on this case? Please then don’t forget he was out there with Naji Ali and the rest of the blacks protesting before an investigation even started. No one cares when an officer is shot by a black in South LA or loses their life as Lizarraga, or gets paralyzed like Officer Ripatti but they all come out to criticize not knowing anything and using a tragic incident for their own media attention. Connie Rice wrote an opinion piece stating South LA is the Killing Zone and why aren’t these same people saying anything about all the murders by blacks in their community?

    Janet (ee9fe2)

  20. I canceled my subscription to the Dog Trainer long ago. However, they continue to deliver it to me free of charge. Today’s edition (1–15-07, B1) contains a story headlined “Secrecy again a major issue for LAPD.” It lists the the Garcia Board of Rights hearing as an example. According to reporter Jim Newton,

    And yet although the ruling itself leaked out the facts that the Board of Rights used to rule in Garcia’s favor have remained under lock and key.

    The statement is contradicted by an article referred to above that appeared in the 1-13-07 issue of the DT and by the fact that Officer Garcia has released the transcript of the hearing to the public.

    [I already plan to post on this. One of the things I’m looking into: did the Police Commission take evidence in public? I’m 99% certain they did not, but I’m looking for proof. — P]

    Stu707 (5b299c)


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