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Sgt. of the year= Jim Parker LAPD

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  • Sgt. of the year= Jim Parker LAPD

    LAPD officer in actress' detention defends TMZ leak to police panel

    Actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend, Brian James Lucas. (Associated Press)

    By KATE MATHER, RICHARD WINTON SEPTEMBER 30, 2014, 8:50 PM LA TIMES

    A Los Angeles police sergeant involved in the controversial detention of a "Django Unchained" actress told the LAPD's civilian overseers Tuesday that the department's disciplinary system is deeply flawed and defended his response to the incident.
    In a rare move for an officer under investigation by the LAPD, Sgt. Jim Parker spoke during the public comment period of the Police Commission meeting and said he averted a potentially volatile racial controversy by contacting celebrity news site TMZ to give his side of the story. The site was the first to publish his recording of the Sept. 11 detention.
    The LAPD launched an internal affairs inquiry after actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend publicly alleged that Parker and two other officers unjustly handcuffed Watts when she refused to identify herself to police. The couple's allegations sparked criticism of the LAPD.
    "I had to make a decision. We were facing another racial, tumultuous incident in L.A.," Parker said. "I said, 'This has to stop right away.' I drove to my station, grabbed the recording and called TMZ. It stopped the next day."
    The LAPD generally prohibits officers from publicly releasing confidential records, including audio recordings.
    "Is it against department policy? Yes," Parker said. "Is it the right thing to do? Yes."
    Parker called on the commission to look closely at the way officers are disciplined and not rely on weekly briefings from department brass for information. He described Chief Charlie Beck — who has been criticized for his handling of some officer discipline cases — as "one head of a multi-headed snake on this department." He said officers were so upset that many were unsurprised by the actions of ex- Officer Christopher Dorner, who accused the LAPD of unfairly firing him and then targeted police officers and their families in a deadly rampage.
    "If you want to be a commission member to make a difference, you need to make a difference in our discipline system," Parker told the commission. "That's where the issue is.... It is just pathetic what is happening to our people out there."
    A department spokesman declined to comment on the specific investigation involving Parker. But Sgt. Albert Gonzalez said the department generally does not prohibit officers from speaking to the commission, though they are asked to make comments while off-duty.
    After the commission meeting, Parker told The Times that he took Monday and Tuesday off sick after he was told he would be removed from patrol duties pending the outcome of the investigation. He said he was concerned about possible retribution for his remarks but stood by what he told the commission.
    "They needed to hear from someone who had a lot to lose," he said. "There are hundreds of cases of officers who have been treated unfairly."
    The Studio City detention of Watts and her boyfriend, Brian James Lucas, drew national headlines after the couple alleged they were mistreated because Lucas is white and Watts is black. The department said officers were responding to a call about a couple having sex in a car. Watts has denied the couple were having sex. Lucas wrote on Facebook that police acted as if the couple was engaged in prostitution.
    Parker told The Times he approached the couple because they matched the description provided by the 911 caller.
    The LAPD opened an internal investigation even though the couple had not filed a formal complaint.
    In emails obtained by The Times, an internal affairs investigator told Parker last week that although "no official allegations have been framed yet," investigators were looking at a list of possible misconduct: biased policing, conduct unbecoming, unlawful detention, unauthorized use of force and neglect of duty.
    The union that represents rank-and-file officers released a statement Friday calling the department's internal investigation "unwarranted."
    "The investigation into this incident brings into the open what many LAPD officers have long claimed; the LAPD disciplinary system is arcane, unfair and needs to be reformed," the statement said.
    Gonzalez, the department spokesman, said civilians do not have to file formal complaints for the department to initiate an investigation into an officer's actions. He stressed that an internal investigation did not mean an officer was guilty of misconduct.
    "It's just a reaffirmation that we conduct thorough investigations," he said.
    Watts has defended her behavior, writing in an L.A. Times op-ed piece that she and Lucas had been stopped four times by law enforcement since late spring.
    "Would someone have called the police if it had been a white couple?" she wrote. "Would the sergeant have been so zealous in 'investigating' what was clearly not a crime? Does bias have something to do with how and why Brian and I have been stopped this year? I think it probably does."
    Beck expressed support for the sergeant and officers last month. The chief cautioned that he had not made a final decision about the matter but said his initial review led him to believe that the officers acted within their legal authority.

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