Inglewood police officer sued for role in traffic incident

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By 2UrbanGirls

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — The Inglewood Police Department has another officer under the microscope judging from a closed session agenda item that appeared on the Nov. 16 City Council agenda. 

The city is facing a lawsuit related to the actions of a high-ranking member of the police department who was involved in a car accident involving a city resident.

Lt. Neal Cochran, is accused of hitting Brenda Swarts as she attempted to cross the street at Beach and La Brea avenues.

The incident occurred on or around Nov. 27, 2019. Swartz alleges she was in a marked crosswalk heading north on La Brea Avenue when she was struck by a car driven by Cochran in what the lawsuit describes him as “…operating a vehicle owned by the city of Inglewood … in the course of and scope of his employment.”

Cochran was allegedly attempting to make a right-hand turn where a “No Turn on Red” sign was posted.

The lawsuit accuses Cochran of “failing to operate the vehicle in a safe manner, failure to come to a complete stop and failure to yield the right of way to the pedestrian.”

Cochran’s accident occurred close to seven months after Mayor James Butts crashed a city-owned vehicle into a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer in front of USC.

The latest lawsuit comes as the police department is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation related to one of its narcotics detectives being accused of drug trafficking.

“The specific criminal allegations confronting John Baca have no connection with the city of Inglewood, geographically or organizationally,” Butts said. “The chief of police of course is conducting his own review. He will take the steps necessary to ensure organizational integrity.”

Baca is accused of leveraging the department to sign up his co-conspirator as a confidential informant, despite his lack of a criminal record.

The mayor said there is no truth to the assumptions that the narcotics unit was disbanded. However, sources have said members of the unit have been reassigned to patrol.

Residents have growing concerns that internal issues are preventing the police from protecting the residents as the number of murders continue to rise.

“My concern is public safety because of the rise in gang violence,” said Lori Shuler. “Remarkably, in 2019, there were only two murders, and in 2020 there were 14, and as of Nov. 10 we are up to 16 murders. How many residents will become victims before you address this issue?”

“Is IPD putting as many resources into protecting tax-paying citizens as they are protecting visitors to SoFi Stadium or YouTube Theatre?” Shuler asked the City Council.

“We are very concerned if there is a single murder,” Butts responded. “While we have gotten up to 15 this year, this is still historically low for Inglewood.”

The city hasn’t posted crime stats for 2020.

Inglewood voters went to the polls Nov. 2 to vote on increasing certain taxes to address preserving vital services, senior programs, easing traffic and public safety.

Residents overwhelmingly approved raising the transient occupancy tax, under Measure H, with 62% voting in favor.

Measure I, which sought to create a tiered tax rate on real estate transfers, failed with 53% of the voters rejecting the proposed increase.

The city has yet to identify a plan for the $15.5 million received in July under the American Recovery Plan Act, or what the plan is to shore up the revenue shortfall.

2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at 2urbangirls@gmail.com.

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