Los Angeles County Police Shootings

By Mike Reicher, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 03/07/15, 12:01 AM PST | Updated: 1 day ago

The last time Los Angeles County prosecutors charged a police officer for shooting someone was in 2001.

This past week’s fatal incidents on Skid Row and in Burbank are unlikely to break that streak, an analysis of five years of district attorney’s case reviews shows.

In each of the 409 shootings since January 2010, prosecutors determined on-duty officers were justified in using deadly force. Faced with a rifle, a machete, or no weapon at all, police shot in the name of defense and fatally wounded their targets about half the time.

District attorneys, who have their own set of pressures, often side with police and keep them out of court. Prosecutors rely on officers to testify in their daily cases. Also, attorneys have to overcome a high legal standard and win over courtrooms generally sympathetic to police. This means shootings that appear borderline to an average citizen might never be brought to trial.

“Juries are very reluctant to second-guess police officers in their split-second life or death decisions,” said Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson. “Policing is ugly. Policing is violent. Courts recognize that.”

While no national database tracks all “officer-involved shootings” and prosecutions, it is safe to say officers rarely face criminal charges, said David A. Klinger, associate professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Police are justified in using deadly force if a reasonable officer in the same situation would have believed there was an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others, Stinson said.

LAPD Officer Ronald Orosco was the last officer to be prosecuted in L.A. Charged in 2001 with shooting an unarmed motorist in the back during a routine traffic stop, he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to five years in state prison. Orosco was arguing with Charles Beatty, 66, about a left-turn violation in South L.A. when the dispute escalated. Beatty complied with police orders and was getting ready to drive away, but another oral exchange turned physical. Beatty said he was fleeing out of fear when Orosco, 2 feet away, shot him through the driver’s side rear window.

After officers in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., were cleared in fatal incidents last year, critics argued district attorneys were too collegial with police to objectively evaluate shootings.

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