LOS ANGELES — Police Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Police Commission Jan. 12 that he does not take “lightly” his decision to recommend criminal charges for an officer who killed an unarmed homeless man in Venice.
Beck said a chief must defend his department when it is right, “but also be forthright when he sees something that he believes is wrong.”
“I wish I didn’t have to do it, but this is obviously something that is not only in the public’s mind at this particular time, but also on the national stage,” he said. “So it’s very important that we be seen as honest brokers and not only willing to stand up for our folks when we believe in them, but also recognize a criminal act.”
Beck also asked the commission to hold off on reviewing the shooting “in order not to conflict with the D.A.’s investigation and potential prosecution.”
LAPD investigators concluded that Brendon Glenn was on his stomach, attempting to push himself off the ground, when Officer Clifford Proctor stepped back and fired twice, hitting the 29-year-old in the back.
After reviewing video, witness accounts and other evidence, investigators determined Glenn was not trying to take either Proctor’s gun or his partner’s weapon, according to the chief. Proctor’s partner told investigators he did not know why the officer opened fire.
The shooting last May 5 came amid a strident national conversation about police and the use of force, particularly against black men. Glenn was black, as is Proctor.
Beck said he made his recommendation to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey last month when the LAPD handed over its investigation to prosecutors. He said he has suggested that prosecutors file charges against officers in other cases, but never for a fatal on-duty shooting.
It is now up to Lacey and her office to decide whether to bring a case against Proctor. Los Angeles County prosecutors have not charged a law enforcement officer for an on-duty shooting in 15 years.
Southland civil rights activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson called on Lacey to file charges and fast-track the prosecution. He said Beck’s decision to recommend charges “is a sterling act that recognizes the seriousness of the unwarranted use of deadly force by officers.”
“But a recommendation by the chief for prosecution without a fast and vigorous prosecution by Lacey will be a hollow victory,” Hutchinson said.
“Any delay in the prosecution will send the terrible message that there is a double standard in how prosecutors handle criminal charges against police officers and … criminal charges against ordinary citizens.”
Proctor’s attorney, Larry Hanna, defended his client’s decision to shoot, telling the Los Angeles Times that the officer saw Glenn going for his partner’s gun — even if his partner may not have realized it. Although a security camera captured the events leading up to the shooting, Hanna said, both of Glenn’s hands could not be seen for the entirety of the recording.
Hanna accused LAPD brass of making a “political decision,” saying the chief spoke too early about the case last year when he publicly questioned Proctor’s actions just hours after the shooting. But the attorney said he believes Lacey’s office will “make the right decision” and decline to file charges against the officer.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is urging prosecutors to review the case “with the utmost gravity.”
“No one is above the law, and whenever use-of-force crosses the line, it is our obligation to make sure that principle is upheld,” he said. “Our officers perform heroic work every day, work that often goes unheralded. But accountability is fundamental to the trust that needs to exist between our officers and the people they serve — and maintaining that trust is essential to keeping our neighborhoods safe.”