Last week we were informed by L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey that her office would not be bringing charges against LAPD Officer Clifford Proctor for the shooting death in Venice of Brendon Glenn, a young, unarmed black man. Officer Proctor’s fellow officer disputed his partner’s account of the shooting, the civilian Police Commission found the shooting violated department policy and, in a rare and stunning declaration, Police Chief Charlie Beck called for his own officer to be criminally charged.
Despite numerous cases where unarmed young black men have been shot and killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles, no criminal charges have been filed against an on duty officer for excessive force since 2000. Civil rights attorneys and watchdog groups monitored this case closely because the general feeling in our community was that if DA Lacey was not going to charge Proctor, she was never going to charge a police officer, no matter what the circumstances were.
As it turns out, that is apparently going to be the case. Every police officer in LA can safely take to the streets knowing that no matter how egregious their behavior is or how far out of protocol their job performance is, the DA will have their back – no exceptions!
Even more galling is the reason Lacey says she refused to file charges. She stated that it would be unethical for her to bring charges against the officer if she did not believe she could prove the case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. This is absolute hogwash. Every single defense attorney in this county can provide a litany of cases where the evidence is weak or ambiguous and a deputy prosecutor has said to them that they are going to charge the defendant anyway and then “Let the courts work it out.”
But perhaps the most disturbing part of Lacey’s failure to file excuse was that she stated that these cases are difficult to win. Lots of cases are difficult to win- that’s why we elect a DA who promises they can win tough cases! Any prosecutor can win a case against a lifetime career criminal who is caught on video robbing a bank and then subsequently confesses.
A DA who only prosecutes the easy cases is not what we want from that office. We want someone who is not afraid to take on cases that are tough to win but which are righteous. We want a DA who isn’t scared to take on LAPD when they are wrong. We want a DA who will actually do the right thing even if it means the office might lose the case. In fact, even if the DA might lose the case, they would at least send a message to police officers that there is no longer going to be total immunity for killing unarmed minorities.
Lacey’s reasoning reminds me of the 2008 Wall Street financial collapse where a number of the top-level executives at various brokerage firms had clearly committed crimes that could and should have been prosecuted. However, the prosecutors in New York refused to pursue charges because it would take up too much of their resources and because the defendants would hire top-notch defense lawyers who would fight them tooth and nail.
In short, they would much rather stick to the easy crimes that don’t require much effort. Not only did the Wall Street executives not learn a lesson, they were emboldened to give themselves even greater compensation packages after the taxpayers had bailed them out!
If Jackie Lacey feels the Brendon Glenn murder is too tough a case, despite the Chief of Police stating it was a criminal act, then she needs to step down and let someone who is not afraid to stand up for young black and brown men take over. This has gone on way too long and someone in the DA’s office needs to step up and have the courage to put a stop to it.