Police who roughed-up and injured people in the so called "May Day Melee" in MacArthur Park in 2007 might have caused the city to pay out nearly $13 million in settlements but they didn't commit any crimes, the county district attorney announced today.
"Although the officers involved might have used questionable tactics, our investigation determined there is insufficient evidence to initiate criminal proceedings against the officers," said D.A. spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.
The May 1st violence happened during a pro-immigration protest in which a few demonstrators taunted police and threw trash at them. At some point Los Angeles Police Department brass ordered officers to clear out the park and, donning riot gear, marched over the grass and pushed, shoved and hit people with batons.
Injuries ensued, and even some television news crews that had set up in the park found that they were targets of cops clearing the area. Fox11 reporter Christina Gonzalez, who is married to an Los Angeles police official, was famously pushed to the ground in an incident caught on camera.
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The district attorney's office argues that it is not the D.A.'s job to ensure that police follow proper department procedure. It simply looked for criminal misconduct, which it did not find.
"It is not the responsibility of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office to determine if LAPD command staff or officers violated departmental policy," Gibbons stated. "That is the job of the agency itself. Such determinations have been made, leading to discipline and transfers of several involved - both command staff and officers."
"As we evaluated the evidence," she said, "we took into account that under California law, police officers have the right to use reasonable force and escalate that force if they determine the situation warrants."
Outgoing LAPD Chief William Bratton, who is celebrated for presiding over record crime drops, unprecedented diversification of the department's ranks and the leaps forward it made in its use of technology and new-school crime-fighting methods, said this week that the melee was the low point of his seven years as L.A.'s top cop.