LAPD officer caught saying ‘good hunting’ before fatal shooting suspended for 2 days

A Los Angeles Police Department SWAT officer who was caught on body camera telling colleagues ‘good hunting’ before a fatal police shooting last spring has been suspended for two days after an internal investigation, records show. LAPD Disciplinary.

Recently released records identify the officer by rank – Police Officer III – but do not name him, due to state privacy laws. His remark came as he prepared with other SWAT officers to surround a man named Leron James, who was armed with a handgun and barricaded himself in a building in downtown Los Angeles. Police say James, 54, fired at officers from a window and officers returned fire, killing him.

Department officials said the remark was captured on the body camera of another officer walking past and was discovered during a later review of video of the incident.

The episode was seized upon by department critics, who said it reflected a culture of brutality and callousness within SWAT.

Greg “Baba” Akili, an organizer for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, said the two-day suspension was, at best, a slap on the wrist that sends the message that the department isn’t serious about accountability. agents.

“We’re not just looking to punish people, we’re looking for real accountability, because by having real accountability we can stop that from happening,” he said on Saturday.

The elite SWAT unit had come under intense scrutiny, after a former sergeant sued the city, alleging the team operated in a ‘culture of violence’ run by a group of influential members known as the ‘SWAT Mafia’. The suit, worn in 2020 by former Sgt. Tim Colomey, alleged that some problematic SWAT members ‘glorify the use of lethal force’ and ensured that officers who ‘share the same values’ are promoted in the unit while commanders turn a blind eye to problems .

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said at the time that he was disturbed by the “happy hunt” comment, but denied the SWAT Mafia allegations alleged in the lawsuit, saying the members of the unit had consistently exercised restraint and skill while handling difficult and dangerous situations. Moore has previously said he doesn’t know which officers may have heard the “good hunt” remark. But a person with knowledge of the incident told The Times that the two officers who then opened fire on James were part of the group assembled at the time.

Moore then ordered a 10-year review of the unit’s operations to determine if there were “potential problems or patterns” in the way its members used force. The controversial report, released in July, concluded that SWAT officers only used force in a small fraction of deployments between 2012 and 2022 – no force was used in 1,245 of 1,350 incidents, according to the report.

Officials credited changes to policy and other safeguards, such as adopting body cameras, assigning a police psychologist to weigh in on all crisis negotiation situations, and overhauling how agents are recruited for the unit. The unit also worked with the Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy to revise its protocols for executing search warrants following the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot in her Kentucky home in 2020 by police officers who burst in without warning.

While complaints about officers using disrespectful and abusive language toward civilians are not new, discipline in such cases is rare.

LAPD disciplinary records posted online show only a handful of cases in which an employee was disciplined for making “inappropriate remarks.” An officer was reprimanded for calling someone “Boo Boo” and making other unwanted comments during an on-duty encounter; this individual subsequently filed a formal complaint with the department. In another case, a lieutenant received a 10-day suspension after calling a plaintiff in a text message a “Ham planet and fat bureaucrat.”

Times writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times

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