LAPD Critic Patti Beers Filed A Federal Suit Against City Of LA In November 2016 Also Arising Out Of LAPD Misconduct During 2014 Michael Brown Protests

You may recall that all-round heroine Jasmyne Cannick filed suit in federal court last December alleging that the LAPD and the City of LA had selectively prosecuted her for charges arising from 2014 protests about the Michael Brown situation in revenge for her outspoken criticism of the department. Well, it just recently came to my attention that Patti Beers, another well-known critic of the LAPD, who was also arrested and prosecuted1 under the same general circumstances, filed a suit against the City and various LAPD officials, at roughly the same time, in November 2016.

The suit alleges, among other things, that the LAPD has a policy of targeting critics and using selective arrests to punish them for their political activity. Even more interestingly, I think, is the allegation that the City Attorney, who is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors committed in the City of LA, unduly defers to the LAPD’s wishes when deciding who to prosecute and when to exercise prosecutorial discretion in pursuing charges. These matters are interesting enough that I’m going to collect the paperwork in this case and occasionally report on developments. Here is the second amended complaint. You can also get to the documents via static storage, which you can also get to kind of from the menu structure. Read on for some excerpts if you don’t like PDFs.

Plaintiff is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that the Defendants were engaged in a conspiracy to violate Plaintiff’s constitutional and other rights, and to chill Plaintiff’s exercise of those rights, and were acting as co-conspirators with that aim in mind. In committing the acts herein alleged, the individual Defendants acted knowingly, maliciously, and with reckless or callous disregard for Plaintiff’s constitutional and other rights, which justifies an award of punitive damages against each individual Defendant.

On Wednesday, November 26, 2014, a crowd of peaceful protesters, including Plaintiff, began to gather in front of the federal courthouse on Temple and Spring Street starting at 3:00 pm in protest over the grand jury’s failure to indict Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown.

Officers arrested approximately 130 individuals, including Plaintiff, at 6th Street and Hope that evening. Each was arrested on charges of misdemeanor Failure to Disperse pursuant to Penal Code § 409.

Plaintiff was incarcerated for several hours, despite the fact that she was entitled to release on her own recognizance (“OR”) immediately upon completion of booking pursuant to California Penal Code § 853.6.

LAPD Lieutenant Andy Neiman was quoted in the media as saying all demonstrators who were unable to post bail would be held until they were able to appear in court early the following week. Commander Andy Smith was reported to have told news media that, while LAPD would typically release individuals with similar charges on OR, “In this case, because these people are part of a protest that is continuing, they will not be released on their own recognizance.” After holding Plaintiff for an extended period of time, she was finally released OR only because Chief Beck decided to let the demonstrators go at that time.

This action was in keeping with the City’s unlawful policy of denying OR release to individuals arrested for engaging in civil disobedience. According to LAPD Deputy Chief Perez, who first announced this policy during the Occupy protests in Los Angeles in 2011, the decision was made to deny OR release to those engaged in First Amendment activity to “teach people a lesson.”

The CAO filed charges against only three of the more than one hundred and thirty individuals who were arrested in that location: Daitsman,2 Cannick,3 and Plaintiff.

On information and belief, the CAO4 dismissed both Daitsman’s and Cannick’s charges after months of prosecuting them. Plaintiff was tried and acquitted on December 15, 2015, constituting a favorable termination on the merits under the On information and belief, none of the three cases arising out of the November 26, 2014 Ferguson protests were filed as genuine efforts by the CAO to punish and deter criminal activity, but were instead unconstitutional and malicious attempts by the CAO and LAPD together to punish and deter First Amendment activity.

On information and belief, the CAO is unduly influenced by political pressure from the LAPD. Although a Deputy City Attorney may determine that a given charge against a defendant is weak, unwarranted, or otherwise mitigated by other circumstances, the longstanding custom and practice at the CAO is to first find out how the arresting officer “feels” about the proposed disposition, and refuse to exercise prosecutorial discretion if the arresting officer does not agree.

On information and belief, the LAPD improperly influenced and/or pressured the CAO to target Daitsman, Cannick, and Plaintiff, and the CAO did so, thereby failing in its duty to exercise independent prosecutorial judgment in determining whether to file charges at all, which charges to file, and against which defendants.

There’s a lot more interesting stuff in the complaint, especially about how the City of LA has entered into multiple court settlements based on the LAPD’s behavior during other protests in which the City agreed to train the cops not to do this kind of stuff. It is well worth reading, and stay tuned here for further developments.

Image of Patti Beers started its life on her Facebook page and then I modified it to the point where I don’t know what its status is anymore. If it’s subject to copyright I’m happy to cede it to Beers if she wants it. Get in touch!

  1. And acquitted, for that matter.
  2. Linda Daitsman, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, another well-known critic of the LAPD.
  3. Jasmyne Cannick, who is also suing the City on issues arising out of the same protests.
  4. City Attorney’s Office.

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