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Inglewood Police Chief Speaks to Press

Aired July 11, 2002 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

By now, almost everyone has seen this video of a violent weekend arrest in Inglewood, California. At this hour, there are major developments. The police chief in Inglewood is speaking -- he's at a news conference. Let's go there live.

CHIEF RONALD BANKS, INGLEWOOD POLICE: Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming. Before I begin, I'd like to make a couple of acknowledgements and that I've just returned to the city last night. First of all I want to thank Captain Jack Frazier (ph) for running the ship, more or less, while I've been gone and doing such a yeoman's job in some very difficult circumstances.

Secondarily, I'd like to thank my adjutant and press relation's officer Lieutenant Irvine (ph) who probably had the toughest job on the department in terms of facing the media in my absence. I'll begin with command staff and management staff who have been servicing the other agencies involved in this investigation. Again, I think kudos should go out to all of them and I thank them, as well as the men and women of the Inglewood Police Department.

First of all, I should touch upon something that has seemingly become an issue in terms of my absence. I was on vacation out of the state. I was first advised of the incident by telephone on Sunday late in the day, and I was advised not only of the incident, but of the actions taken by command staff in regard to the incident itself.

On Monday I became aware by the same vehicle of the intense media scrutiny that was being centered on this event, as well as the involvement of the district attorney's office, the FBI and other agencies. At that time, late Monday, I pursued a plan for an early return for obvious reasons and was able to secure a flight back to Los Angeles on Wednesday, which was the first available flight arriving here approximately 11 p.m. last evening.

I've been briefed on almost all the aspects of what has gone on in my absence, although it's not ever complete in that it is ongoing, so I will hopefully be able to answer most of your questions. I'd also like to make a brief comment about what I would refer to as the siege of Inglewood PD in regard to this particular incident. First of all, I think it's unprecedented in the history of this particular department to have such intense scrutiny in such a short brief period of time. I understand it, but it's something that we're dealing with as an agency for the first time.

In some respects, I think it's unfair if it tends to ignore the professional reputation and the good work that this organization has done not only for the four and a half years that I've been here, but for the many years prior to my arrival. I agree and I'd like to read from a statement that was prepared by our Inglewood Police Association who is joining me here today that our police officers provide professional service with skilled dedication, responsibility and compassion to the residents of our community, and I can attest to that have always rewarded this service with unwavering support.

We are in no way condoning or encouraging excessive or improper use of force by our officers, but the constitutional principles of due process for anyone under investigation should always be safeguarded. So we hope that in an atmosphere of impartiality, we ask that these same rights be extended to the officers who have dedicated themselves to serve the community.

Finally, I'm asking for not only the media, but the citizens and the other investigative agencies for a sense of balance and perspective in this particular incident. We've been completely cooperative with local, state and federal officials. We have been as open as possible with the media within legal guidelines, and we intend to continue to be forthcoming with as much info as we can provide.

So give us a chance to do our job from other than a defensive posture because to do otherwise is particularly debilitating, unfair and counterproductive, again, in a time that's unprecedented in the history of this organization with limited resources. Thank you for your attention, and I'll now open up to any questions that you may have.

QUESTION: Chief, you've seen the videotape obviously. Is there anything that inherently disturbs you or concerns you without coming to any conclusion about what you see on that tape?

BANKS: Absolutely. I've seen the tape taken by the individual, Mr. Crooks, and I was quite concerned about it. I was somewhat disappointed in viewing the tape, and my reaction was it was not reflective of our normal practices in the way of doing business.

QUESTION: And do you agree with Mr. Dorn, taking a giant step forward, that this officer should be fired?

BANKS: I do not agree that any such judgment can be made at this time without the investigation being completed.


QUESTION: Chief, community activists are saying that this is a case of racial profiling. What is your response?

BANKS: My response is that there is no evidence, and I have had no evidence, as I said, with my tenure with this department that this or any other incident is an incident of racial profiling. We serve a heavily minority community. We serve them on a daily basis well within the guidelines of our policy, and to take this particular incident and characterize it as an example of racial profiling to me is unwarranted.

QUESTION: Mr. Banks, you've been through this before to some degree. Did your standing at all jeopardize the department's ability to investigate this or the rights of your officers?

BANKS: I'm not sure what you mean by my standing (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the comments that were made about whether or not the officers were guilty in the eyes of the spokesperson for the police department, the mayor. Did any of the comments made by any city officials so far jeopardize the standing of the officers or the investigation?

BANKS: Well, I think when we find an individual either in the media or otherwise guilty before the investigation is completed, I think our legal minds have commented on that in some articles. It does not affect me as the chief of police in making the appropriate determination for my office, but again, from a public perception and maybe from a legal perspective, it could create a problem. But again, that's not my judgment to say, but it has been commented on by our legal scholars.

BLITZER: And so we're hearing now from the police chief of Inglewood, California. The police chief, Ronald Banks, saying give the process a chance to sort through all the facts before any final decisions are made in connection with that highly seen, highly publicized videotapes of an officer, a police officer in Inglewood in the Inglewood Police Department, a police officer taking a 16-year- old, as we've all seen, smashing him on the hood of a car, then punching him in the face.




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