INGLEWOOD — A judge has granted a temporary restraining order request filed by the ACLU of Southern California against the city of Inglewood’s police department.
During the last City Council meeting of 2021, the council unanimously voted to destroy certain police records related to relevant use-of-force and other officer conduct records.
The court action stopped the city from shredding documents before a new police transparency law went into effect Jan. 1, expanding the misconduct files subject to public disclosure.
Previously, lawmakers created SB 1421 that went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, which required disclosure of police use of force records and Inglewood unanimously voted during the last City Council meeting of 2018 to destroy the records.
“This premise that there was an intent to beat the clock is ridiculous,” Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said at the time.
The city acknowledged shredding documents before the law went into effect 2019.
“This is a necessary first step to make sure those records are not destroyed,” said Tiffany Bailey, an ACLU attorney. “But it doesn’t stop here. We now need the city of Inglewood to produce the records that are long past due.”
The ACLU, news agencies, and residents, have continuously filed public records request for documents, through the City Clerk’s office, which have gone unfulfilled for years.
The ACLU’s petition specifically asks for records that involve uses of force causing death or great bodily injury, discharges of firearms at a person, sustained findings of sexual assault involving a member of the public and sustained findings of dishonesty in the reporting, investigation or prosecution of a crime or investigation of misconduct.
“The mayor receiving my comments during the council meeting was for show,” said Marvin McCoy, who has been trying for years to obtain police records from the Inglewood Police Department. “The proof is in the pudding when IPD actually investigates my allegations.”
Butts acknowledged receiving public comment from McCoy, via email, during the Jan. 4 City Council meeting, and stated he would forward McCoy’s comments it to the department for further review.
Inglewood police officials identified records that they felt were unresponsive to the ACLU’s request and could be destroyed on schedule. However, ACLU lawyers said they could not trust the department to police its own records, unilaterally deciding which files were responsive and which were not.
“The Inglewood Police Department has issues with abusing the civil rights of residents, particularly Black ones, dating back to their abuse of Donovan Jackson that was caught on tape,” McCoy said. “They have plenty to hide.”
Jackson was a 16-year-old youth who was beaten by Inglewood police outside a gas station/convenience store in July 2002. Former Inglewood police officers Jeremy Morse and Bijan Darvish were both charged in the incident but acquitted by a jury. Morse was fired by the department. Darvish was given a 10-day suspension.
The ACLU is specifically seeking records related to the shooting deaths of Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin in 2016 by Inglewood police.
Inglewood Assistant City Attorney Derald Brenneman said Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón’s office has not decided if charges will be filed against the officers who shot and killed as they sat in a parked car in February 2016.
The Inglewood Police Officers Association declined to comment on the temporary restraining order.
The city and ACLU are due back in court Jan. 18 before Judge Dave J. Cowan, who will consider extending the order he issued last month.
Attorneys for the ACLU theorized Inglewood planned to destroy records from 58 criminal cases.
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson called for a permanent injunction against the city to end its destruction of police files. Hutchinson first raised the issue of the destruction by Inglewood of the police files in 2018.
He called the destruction a slap at transparency and accountability and an insult to the families of those slain and brutalized under questionable circumstances by the Inglewood police.
“Many of these families victimized by police misconduct still are seeking closure on cases involving past shootings and misconduct by the officers,” Hutchinson said. “The preservation of the files are absolutely crucial to ensure justice for the victims’ families.”
City News Service contributed to this report.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at email@example.com.