LOS ANGELES — The local chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) staged a protest in front of District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office Dec. 9, calling on Lacey to resign after declining to charge a police officer who repeatedly beat a mentally ill woman on the shoulder of the Santa Monica (10) Freeway last year.
Najee Ali, NAN’s political director, said the organization’s next step is to form an exploratory committee to find a potential candidate to run against her next year when the district attorney’ seat is up for re-election.
“Anyone would be better than her,” Ali said. “She has betrayed the trust of the community and shown her inability to protect black people from killer cops.”
The protest, which took place outside of Lacey’s office, did not elicit any response from the district attorney, Ali said.
Ali and other activists were angry after Lacey announced Dec. 3 that her office would not file criminal charges against a former California Highway Patrol officer who was caught on camera beating a mentally ill woman on the side of the Santa Monica Freeway.
The incident took place in July 2014 when CHP Officer Daniel Andrew encountered Marlene Pinnock walking on the shoulder of the freeway.
A 42-second video of Andrew using force against Pinnock went viral after being placed on YouTube.
Pinnock, who was 51 at the time of the confrontation, sued the CHP in Los Angeles federal court, and reached a $1.5 million settlement in September 2014. As part of the settlement, Andrew resigned from the CHP.
In reaching it’s decision not to prosecute Andrew, the D.A.’s office ruled that “there was lawful necessity for Andrew to use force to prevent Pinnock from entering the lanes of traffic and there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force he used was unreasonable or excessive,” according to a charge evaluation worksheet filed in connection with the case.
The D.A.’s office would not comment on the backlash from that ruling, stating that the charge evaluation worksheet “speaks for itself.” But Jody Armour, a law professor at the USC Gould School of Law (Lacey’s law school alma mater) expressed doubts about the ruling.
“Lacey’s decision not to prosecute a flagrant case of excessive force is an outrage and proves that having a black face in the D.A.’s office does not ensure more even-handed justice in matters of police brutality,” Armour said in a text message. “Jackie Lacey cares more about maintaining a good working relationship with police (and securing the political endorsement of their union) than protecting the public from cruel and corrupt officers.”
About three dozen people attended the protest outside Lacey’s office Dec. 9, including NAN leaders and members from the group’s San Diego chapter, as well as the Rev. Kelvin Sauls from Holman United Methodist Church and several other clergy members.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is another community activist who spoke out against Lacey. Hutchinson is the president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, an open-microphone, non-partisan public policy forum that promotes civic engagement.
“The decision by Jackie Lacey not to file charges against Andrew sends a horrible message on police abuse and misconduct,” said Hutchinson in a joint statement with Ali. “This reinforces the deep belief that prosecutors will systematically turn a blind eye toward this type of abuse.”
According to the D.A.’s office, several civilian eyewitnesses were interviewed as part of the investigation.
Four of them contacted or attempted to contact authorities on their own to defend Andrew’s actions after seeing the video. Three eyewitnesses said they saw Pinnock hit the officer, and four of them said they thought Andrew was trying to prevent her from wandering into freeway traffic.
The district attorney’s office also hired an independent use of force expert, who found that the officer “reasonably acted according to CHP policy, CHP training, and the law during this difficult encounter with Ms. Pinnock,” according to the district attorney’s office.
Pinnock’s attorney, Caree Harper, said she was “disgusted” by Lacey’s decision.
“This is a cowardly, disgusting decision by a district attorney who has shown no regard for a community of people who have been beaten by bad officers,” Harper told City News Service. “She should be removed ASAP, and an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate whenever there is a police beating of a citizen.”
City News Service also contributed to this story.