Two new decisions show again that nothing about police shootings of civilians is simple.
Both pertain to the Aug. 11, 2014 fatal shooting of Ezell Ford, 25, a black man who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, in a confrontation in the Florence Area with two Los Angeles police officers who thought they saw him trying to discard drugs.
On Jan. 24, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced she would not press criminal charges against the officers. Prosecutors’ report said officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others.”
But two weeks later, on Wednesday, the L.A. City Council approved a $1.5 million payment to settle a lawsuit filed by Ford’s mother and father. A lawyer for the family stated the obvious: The city’s willingness to settle lends credence to the contention that the officers were wrong to use deadly force against Ford.
All of this happened eight months after an L.A. Police Commission decision that sounded contradictory all by itself. The civilian panel concluded that Wampler violated LAPD policy with the tactics employed in dealing with Ford, and in drawing and using his firearm, and that Villegas violated department policy in drawing his gun — but not in firing it.
Understandably, the decision not to hold the officers criminally accountable despite official acknowledgements that they messed up is maddening for the many people for whom Ford’s death is a rallying cry against police brutality.
After Lacey’s decision, civil rights activists said they would lead an effort to recall the second-term district attorney.
While nobody should tell others how angry to be about an incident like this, we think a recall effort would be going too far.
Recall votes should be held to punish malfeasance by public officials. They should generally not be held because of disagreements over officials’ decisions. It appears Lacey decided the evidence against the two officers would not win a conviction in court; right or wrong, she made the kind of decision she was elected to make.
Police shootings are tragic, sometimes just plain wrong and never as simple as we’d like. The challenge in ending unnecessary police shootings is too complex to focus anger on one person.
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.