Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton will review the department’s policy of allowing officers to strike suspects with flashlights after the videotaped beating of a man last week, reports the Los Angeles Times. “The image of the flashlight looks problematic,” Bratton said. “It looks awful, quite frankly.” Bratton, who has headed police departments in Boston and New York City, said the authorized use of a flashlight on resistant suspects was new to him and needed to be reevaluated. Bratton, who took control of the LAPD in October 2002, said neither Boston or New York allowed flashlights to be used that way. Bratton met Saturday with 60 religious, city and community leaders Los Angeles to discuss Wednesday’s violent arrest. Two television news helicopters taped LAPD Officer John J. Hatfield hitting a suspected car thief 11 times with a flashlight at the end of a car chase. Criminal and administrative investigations; all eight officers at the scene have been placed on desk duty. Under department policy officers are permitted to use “distraction blows” with flashlights to gain the compliance of aggressive or combative suspects. They can strike suspects in the arm and shoulder but not in the head. “No matter what we authorize, to the public, it looks awful,” Bratton said. “If it is authorized, then our obligation is to explain why it’s authorized and what it’s intended to do.”
Bratton said the department was trying to determine where Hatfield hit Miller, who said he was hit in the head. Hatfield told investigators that he administered distraction blows to the arm and shoulder blades – not the head – and that he stopped hitting Miller once handcuffs were on, The Times said it was told. Hatfield said he kicked and then beat the suspect because another officer yelled that he had a gun. Councilman Martin Ludlow, who organized Saturday’s meeting, said he understood that officers need to use force to get suspects to comply. But once they do, he said the use of force should stop. The tape seems to show that the flashlight strikes continued after the suspect was under control.