LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles police chief said Tuesday that politics had nothing to do with his decision to recommend criminal charges against an officer who fatally shot an unarmed homeless man in the back — it was simply the right thing to do.
Chief Charlie Beck said it's his obligation to not only publicly stand up for his officers when they've acted properly, but also to recognize when they've done wrong.
Beck recommended that Officer Clifford Proctor be criminally charged in the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Brendon Glenn on May 5 in Venice. He made the recommendation late last month to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whose office is conducting its own investigation and can choose to disregard the chief's opinion.
Beck's recommendation came after investigators concluded that Glenn was on his stomach trying to push himself up when Proctor shot him, and that Glenn wasn't trying to take a gun from Proctor or his partner when he was shot.
"This was not only an act that didn't meet the standards of the Los Angeles police department, but it didn't meet the legal standards of the use of deadly force," Beck told reporters at police headquarters.
Beck said it was important to make his recommendation public because "this is a national conversation that has to be had."
"It's important that the public see the police chief as a credible judge of these incidents, so if I stand up for one side, I have to make sure I call it as I see it on the other side," he said.
The decision is the first time Beck has recommended charges against an officer who fatally shot someone while on duty. More than 100 such shootings have occurred since Beck became chief in late 2009.
Proctor's attorney, Larry Hanna, said he thinks politics is playing a big part in Beck's public recommendation.
He said the shooting was justified because Proctor thought Glenn was reaching for his partner's gun, and that surveillance video that captured the shooting does not show both of Glenn's hands.
"When officers are out there, these decisions are made within split seconds," Hanna said. "They don't get to run the tape over and over and over and enlarge it and stop it frame by frame. They're having adrenaline flowing. They're seeing it in real time and having the fear and seeing what's generating that fear."
The police department has declined to release the surveillance video that captured the shooting, despite calls from members of the public that it be made available.
Beck said that's because the video will be used to test the veracity of witness statements and that releasing it could taint a jury pool should Proctor be charged.
The district attorney said in a statement on Monday that it's her ethical obligation to remain impartial until her office finishes its own investigation. "Decisions on whether or not to file criminal charges will be based solely on the facts and the law — not on emotion, anger or external pressure," she said.