October 18, 2004 Monday
An analysis of 1,437 Los Angeles police shootings since 1985 showed that officers involved in one shooting were more likely to be involved in a second or third, it was reported today. Nearly 90 percent of officers assigned to patrol never fired their weapons but, after a first shooting, the likelihood of that officer being involved in a second rose from 10 percent to 20 percent, the Los Angeles Times reported. Officers with two shootings had a 31 percent chance of being involved in third, the newspaper reported as part of series on officer-involved shootings. "It's definitely easier to pull the trigger a second time," former LAPD Officer Hank Cousine, who was involved in three shootings over 15 years. "You kill a lot of paper targets, but shooting a human being is different." Cousine, one of 44 problem officers identified in 1991 by the Christopher Commission based citizen complaints, shootings and other criteria, was fired in 1998 for participating in an illegal pyramid scheme. In a 1988 shooting, he wounded a man who turned out to be holding a toy gun. The next year, while off duty, he shot into car occupied by some men who were harassing a woman with whom he was talking and who sideswiped his Chevrolet Corvette, The Times reported. A second shooting in 1989 occurred when a man in a domestic dispute came at him with a razor blade. Cousine shot the man in a leg. Among about 9,100 active officers, 69 have been involved in three or more shootings, The Times reported. Bill Rhetts, a former LAPD officer who is now a police chaplain, was deemed unfit for duty by a department psychiatrist after fatally shooting a gang member who pointed a gun at him, wounding and paralyzing a gunman, and wounding a teenager who was brandishing a BB gun, the newspaper reported. After leaving the LAPD, he joined the Riverside Police Department and shot an unarmed suspect who was hiding in a doghouse, The Times reported. "I became very desensitized. You know, callous, angry, hateful," he told the newspaper. "I didn't see it then, but I see it now. I became more aggressive in defending my life." While assigned to the LAPD's Northeast Station, Rhetts told The Times he injected steroids and lifted weights to keep in shape. He also recalled getting drunk on bourbon while driving home as a way of dealing with the stress. Five of the officers identified as repeat shooters by The Times were implicated in the corruption scandal involving anti-gang officers assigned to the Rampart Station. Those officers, according to an officer caught stealing cocaine, routinely planted evidence on suspects or at the scenes the of officer-involved shootings to make them look justified. Despite being urged in 1991 by the Christopher Commission report to develop a system for identifying and tracking problem officers, the LAPD has yet to devise a computerized tracking system deemed adequate by Department of Justice officials now overseeing reforms within the police department. LAPD officials hope to have the so-called TEAMS II system running by the start of the fiscal year in July, The Times reported. When the civilian-based Police Commission reviews officer-involved shooting to determine if they were justified, or "in policy," they do not consider the officer's use-of-force record before making a decision as a means of staying impartial. But some commissioners said they reviewed the officer's record after making decision on the shooting to make a judgment on whether some kind of intervention is warranted, The Times reported.
October 19, 2004