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TASK FORCE TO REVIEW SHOOTING.

Byline: Rick Orlov Staff Writer

Amid community criticism over the death of a 19-month-old girl in a shootout between her father and police, top city officials announced Monday the creation of a task force to review SWAT tactics.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton said a board of inquiry would be convened to investigate the July 10 incident, which culminated in the deaths of Suzie Pena and her father, Raul Pena.

Assistant Chief Sharon Papa will lead the review of SWAT deployment and training and also will develop recommendations for change.

The review is expected to be complete within four to six months.

``We are using this event as a catalyst to look at the entire SWAT operation,'' Bratton said.

SWAT has 67 officers who are part of the elite Metro Unit and who receive special training to deal with barricade and hostage situations, Deputy Chief Mike Hillman said.

Villaraigosa praised Bratton for the move.

``Almost as important as the review is that we are looking at a cultural change in the process,'' Villaraigosa said. ``Chief Bratton and I are committed to changing the department from its days of a closed-door attitude. The LAPD is opening itself up for an outside review. This is the kind of opening that I as mayor want to see continue.''

Among the members of the Board of Inquiry is Merrick Bobb, an attorney who oversaw an inquiry into the Sheriff Department's use of force policy and is a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Other members include attorney Richard Aborn, who investigated misconduct inside the New York Police Department; William Geller, a consultant on police use of force policies; Lt. Phil Hanson of the Sheriff's Department; attorney Greg Longworth, a retired NYPD officer considered an expert in deadly force cases; Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian; LAPD Assistant Chief Linda Pierce, who oversees the LAPD Criminal Investigations Bureau; and attorney Eugene Ramirez, a former Deputy District Attorney who has worked with SWAT teams.

Bobb said he was pleased to be part of the group and welcomed the chance to look at SWAT.

``As far as I know, this is the first time a police department has voluntarily opened itself up for this kind of review,'' Bobb said.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents officers, said it did not believe the Board of Inquiry was necessary, but would work with it.

``We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate to the activists who question our motives that our officers were doing the best job they could under difficult and trying circumstances,'' the Protective League said in a statement.

Ricardo Garcia, criminal justice director for the ACLU, said he appreciated the review as long as it could be objective and didn't delay the other investigations into the shooting.

``Certainly, we welcome any independent review of the department, and this is a good step,'' Garcia said. ``The only question we would have is if the members can be independent enough of their law enforcement background to provide an objective view.''

In a related development, Bratton said he had been in contact with Luis Carrillo, the attorney for the Pena family, to try to obtain any evidence he might have collected as part of the investigation.

Bratton said Carrillo told FBI agents that he had evidence that might show a violation of Pena's civil rights.

``They referred Mr. Carrillo to the investigating agency, which is the LAPD, and I have asked him to provide us with any evidence he has,'' Bratton said.

Carrillo did not return telephone calls.

In addition to the LAPD investigation of the shooting, Bratton said a separate use-of-force panel was reviewing the case and the District Attorney's Office also was looking at the shooting.

Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390

rick.orlov(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 16, 2005
Words:632
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