The controversial Special Investigations Section of the Los Angeles Police Department is under review, The Los Angeles Times says. “It won’t look the way it does now,” said Assistant Chief George Gascon. The review comes after the fatal shooting in September of two robbery suspects. Officers said they fired in self-defense, but no gun used by the suspects has been found.
The unit, formed in 1965, has been involved in more than 50 gun battles that have resulted in the death of at least 37 suspects. It has been responsible for several million dollars in settlements of misconduct claims and has served as a lightning rod for police department critics.
Among possible reforms: rotating officers through the unit rather than making permanent assignments, requiring plainclothes officers to have uniformed backup in any armed confrontation, and reviewing tactics to ensure they conform to the highest standards. “It’s been considered a sacred cow,” said Gascon.
The unit of 20 veteran officers would not be disbanded, but reorganized. Police Chief William J. Bratton sees the need for officers to perform such a mission but wants fewer specialized units.
Detectives turn to the unit when they believe they have identified a criminal but lack evidence to file charges. Unit members then tail the suspect, often for weeks. Reforms would be balanced against a history of SIS success in capturing a veritable Who’s Who of Los Angeles bad guys, including the Alphabet Bomber, the Freeway Strangler and the killer of Bill Cosby’s son, Ennis.