Saturday, May 12, 2007

US Police State Misconduct

Los Angeles police advance on May Day
Officers fired plastic bullets into crowds at the May Day protest
Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman's office has been asked to help an investigation into complaints about police during rioting in Los Angeles. (BBC)

Investigators say there are similarities with rioting in the Whiterock area of Belfast in 2005.

More than 250 plastic bullets were fired during rioting that followed a May Day rally by immigrants and workers rights' groups in LA last week.

Television pictures showed police officers attacking protestors.

During the trouble 24 people, including 10 journalists, were injured.

The police chief in the city, William Bratton, has acknowledged "inappropriate behaviour" on the part of some of his officers.

And now the Los Angles Police Commission, a civilian body which oversees the police in the city, has contacted the Police Ombudsman's office asking for advice.

They asked for help after seeing a presentation on the rioting that followed an Orange Order parade in the Whiterock area of Belfast.

The LA rally had been peaceful until the clashes, which the police department said were prompted by agitators throwing rocks and bottles at officers.

Widespread outrage over the pictures of the incident prompted the city's mayor to cut short an overseas visit and return to the city.

Internal inquiry

News footage showed a police officer pushing a TV camerawoman to the ground and shoving people who were walking away from the officers.

Officials have denied the police deliberately targeted immigrants or civil rights activists.

Los Angeles police chief William Bratton
Bratton has said an order to disperse may not have been clear

But Mr Bratton has acknowledged that an order for protesters to disperse may not have been understood because it was issued in English when most of those attending the rally spoke only Spanish.

Nonetheless, the highest-ranking officer at the scene of the rally has been demoted and placed on house leave pending the outcome of an internal inquiry.

His second-in-charge, a veteran of almost 40 years on the force, has been demoted and about 60 highly-trained riot control officers who were involved in the clashes have been reassigned.

The Los Angeles Police Department is no stranger to scandal.

Sixteen years ago, officers were videotaped beating an unarmed black man, Rodney King.

Their subsequent acquittal prompted three days of riots, in which more than 50 people died.

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