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Sacked policeman who beat boy wins $1.6m

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Sacked policeman who beat boy wins $1.6m

 

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles

Thursday January 20, 2005

The Guardian

 

A Los Angeles police officer who was videotaped repeatedly slamming the face of a handcuffed 16-year-old boy on to the bonnet of a car and then punching him in the face has been awarded $1.6m (£856,000) in damages in a case steeped in racial antagonism.

 

Another officer who was present at the incident was awarded $811,000. The award was made after the two white officers sued the city of Los Angeles for racial discrimination, claiming that they had been punished more harshly for their role in the arrest than a black officer who was also present.

 

The beating made headlines around the world in July 2002 when Donovan Jackson was arrested at a petrol station after his father was questioned about an out-of-date licence plate. The arrest was filmed by a backpacker staying at a nearby hostel in Inglewood, 10 miles south of Los Angeles.

 

Tension rose as the video of the arrest was repeatedly played on local television, with many arguing that the film showed little had changed since the Rodney King beating, also videotaped, 10 years previously. That arrest, in which four police officers were subsequently acquitted of beating a black motorist, led to the 1992 riots in which 55 people died.

 

The officer shown hitting Jackson, Jeremy Morse, was fired from the police force. The second officer, Bijan Darvish, who failed to mention the beating in his report of the arrest, was given a 10-day suspension.

 

In their lawsuit, Mr Morse and Mr Darvish argued that a third officer, Willie Crook, who had struck Mr Jackson with his torch and also failed to report the beating, received only a four-day suspension because he is black. Police authorities point out that Mr Crook lost his job as a police officer and was reassigned as a civilian prison guard.

 

Inglewood's black police chief, Ronald Banks, denied that race had been a factor in the punishments.

 

"I based my decision on their actions and what I thought their responsibility was. It was based purely on the facts," Mr Banks told reporters. "I was shocked at not only the verdict but the size of the awards. It was somewhat ridiculous."

 

Inglewood's black mayor also derided the awards. "How do you give a man who was suspended for only 10 days more than $800,000?" asked Roosevelt Dorn. "Morse was fired. But $2.4m?"

 

Mr Morse was subsequently tried on charges of assault but two trials collapsed after the juries failed to reach a decision. Prosecutors dropped the charges after the second mistrial. Both Mr Morse and Mr Darvish still face civil rights lawsuits. Their lawyer, Gregory Smith, defended the verdict on Tuesday. "They feel vindicated," he said.

 

"They've never talked about their side of the story and they've been subjected to a lot of abuse. Finally their story came out."

 

Mr Darvish is still a police officer working in the Inglewood police district. Mr Morse, who was fired from the force, now has the option of returning to duty.

 

"He can get his job back and he's going to deliberate on it," Mr Smith said. "It was the love of his life. That's all he ever wanted to do, be a police officer."

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