More than a decade after the Rodney King beating case sparked urban rioting, another high-profile police brutality trial starts today in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles Times says that this time, it is the Inglewood Police Department that is caught on tape. Racial factors and an amateur videotape of a confrontation between white officers and a black suspect have drawn the attention of civil rights leaders and federal authorities.
In the video, former Officer Jeremy Morse, 25, is seen slamming handcuffed Donovan Jackson, 16, with no criminal record, onto the trunk of a police cruiser and using his fist to strike the boy in the face. Morse is charged with assault; his attorneys say he was using a police technique called “wedging” because Jackson had gone limp and thus was still resisting. Officer Bijan Darvish has been charged with lying to cover up his partner’s actions. Darvish denies the charge.
The videotape of the July 6, 2002, incident was widely broadcast. Civil rights leaders converged on the county, and U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft dispatched his top civil rights lawyer to investigate. Justice Department officials have joined with local agencies and a coalition of Los Angeles County business, civic and religious leaders to plan ways to keep the peace through the verdict in the Inglewood case. The coalition is training volunteers to circulate when the trial ends to squelch rumors and direct people to places where they can peacefully vent their anger. A Justice Department official believes the verdict will not present “a high-risk situation.”