Retired LAPD cops protest media coverage of recent videos

By Beth Barrett, Staff Writer
The Daily News of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES- About a half-dozen retired police officers picketed Wednesday outside the Daily News over the newspaper's recent coverage of videos showing Los Angeles police officers punching and using pepper spray on suspects.

Carrying signs reading "Warriors Have Courage," "Support the LAPD, Not Gangs," and "Twisted Journalism," the officers said they specifically objected to a headline last Friday that read "LAPD Violence: Same Old Story?" and linked the recent incidents to the 1991 beating of motorist Rodney King by four cops.

The protest came less than a week after an 18-second video surfaced on YouTube.com showing an LAPD officer repeatedly punching a suspect in the face in an Aug. 11 scuffle in Hollywood. On Monday, a video emerged showing an officer pepper-spraying a handcuffed suspect in a patrol car in February 2005.

Both of the videos appear to have been taped by bystanders.

Protest organizer Chris Biller, a retired 29-year veteran of the West Valley Division, said media reports about the videos could make officers so sensitive to what onlookers might be recording that it jeopardizes their safety.

"These people in blue are our children. They do the right thing and are our only line of defense," Biller said while picketing on the sidewalk in front of the newspaper's Woodland Hills office.

He said the group intends to picket the Los Angeles Times next week.

Retired LAPD Officer Pat Connelly said he wanted to show his support for the thousands of officers who are willing to put themselves in harm's way to make the city safer.

"Time and time again it seems we try to convict them before (all the facts) come in," he said.

The retired officers said they don't condone police brutality, but also believe the public needs to understand how tough the job is.

They also said tactics that might look improper to the public -- including punches known as "distraction" strikes -- are authorized by the department.

"We're warriors and we're proud of it," Biller said.

Daily News Editor Ron Kaye said he respects the retired officers' point of view and the progress made by the LAPD in carrying out department reforms.

"The recent disclosure of videotaped incidents involving LAPD officers and suspects has revived concerns about excessive force," Kaye said. "It's our job to report what happened and raise questions of public importance.

"I think we fulfilled our public obligations in these stories properly without overstepping the boundaries."

Copyright 2006 Tower Media, Inc.

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