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Police using less force, study finds

Reduction is from community policing, better communication, chief says.

February 17, 2012|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

The number of use-of-force incidents by Glendale police officers has decreased by 43% since administrators began tracking them in 2009.

Police officers used force 56 times last year, down from 77 in 2010 and 99 in 2009, according to a Glendale Police Department report.

Police Chief Ron De Pompa attributed the decrease in use-of-force incidents to the department’s improved community involvement and policing.

“I don’t find it unusual in an environment where community policing becomes the norm,” he said. “I think when that happens, you develop much better working relationships with the community. You communicate better, you have better points of contact and it just follows that use-of-force incidents will decrease in those types of environments.”

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The types of force used, according to the report, included involvement of batons, canines, carotid restraints, chemical agents, firearms, impact weapons, physical control techniques, Tasers and unarmed striking.

Physical control techniques significantly dropped from 44 in 2009 to 25 last year, according to the reports. Taser use dropped from 13 in 2009 to seven last year. A single firearm incident was logged for 2009 and 2011, but none for 2010.

The Police Department began keeping detailed records of use-of-force incidents when De Pompa replaced former police Chief Randy Adams in 2009.

The next year, De Pompa established a Use of Force Review Board to examine and decide whether the incidents were within policy. The board also identifies the training and equipment needed to deal with the incidents.

The board has determined all incidents as of 2010 were within Police Department policy, according to the report.

But that has not protected the department from legal action.

Asadoor Mirzaeyan, 71, filed a lawsuit in 2011, claiming undercover officers ordered him to leave a coffee shop in the Glendale Galleria and broke his shoulder in the process of detaining him, prompting him to fall unconscious as a result of the pain.

“He was very upset about the incident,” said Mirzaeyan’s attorney, Timothy Mitchell.

Glendale contends Mirzaeyan was intoxicated — which he also admitted to in his lawsuit — unable to care for himself and confrontational when they asked him to leave the mall. City attorneys claim Mirzaeyan resisted arrest, and tried to clinch his arms to his chest as the officers tried to detain him.

While use of physical control techniques has been reduced in the Police Department, high numbers in that category are not unusual because grabbing and detaining someone may require force, said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney at the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, which provides civilian oversight of sheriff’s operations and tactics.

“The fact that force is being tracked and numbers are being kept is critical for any [police] department,” he said.

Information on use-of-force incidents in law enforcement agencies hasn’t always been available for the public, Gennaco said, but a push to become transparent has prompted more agencies to go the way of Glendale’s department.

“It’s good news for the citizens of Glendale,” he said.

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