OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING INVESTIGATION PROCESS
To demonstrate the level of investigation, review, evaluation, and actions our Department takes when an officer involved shooting occurs, an overview of the process is provided below:
Homicide Detail detectives, field supervisors, and departmental managers immediately respond to the scene to begin an investigation.
Notification is made to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (LACDA). Per our Memorandum of Understanding, LACDA will send a Deputy District Attorney from their Justice System Integrity Division (JSID) and a District Attorney Investigator to all “hit” officer involved shootings. The LACDA is present at the scene during the investigative phase to conduct an independent investigation.
Forensic Science Services Division (FSSD) responds to the scene. This is our crime lab and forensic specialists who respond with specialized equipment needed to document the scene and collect evidence.
The Los Angeles County Coroner (LACC) responds to a fatal officer involved shooting. LACC will respond and take custody of the deceased. LACC will make the notification to the next of kin and officially start their own independent investigation as to the cause of death. A LBPD Homicide supervisor/and or detective and a LACDA investigator will attend the autopsy to learn about the wound trajectory and other evidence as it pertains to the case. A security hold may be placed on the autopsy report to prevent influencing the future statements of witnesses we have not been able to interview or witnesses who we have yet to identify. For instance, if the public is made aware of specific information before the completion of the investigation, such as wound location, clothing worn by the individual, or the position the deceased was found, this could influence future witness statements and have a negative impact on court proceedings. Security holds are not, and cannot, be placed on the actual physical body, but rather, on the autopsy report.
At the initial scene, officers are assigned to locate any potential witnesses from every residence or business within a reasonable area. Investigating officers interview potential witnesses, obtain statements and secure surveillance video that may have captured portions of the incident. All officers involved at the scene must file a police report documenting their duties and actions.
At the scene, the officer involved in the shooting is isolated from others to preserve the integrity of his or her statement. An officer discharging his or her weapon is a traumatic event. A peer officer, who has no involvement in the incident whatsoever, is assigned to the officer to help monitor their wellbeing and to ensure the involved officer’s physical needs are met during the extended period of the first phase of the investigation.
Officers, like any member of the public, have the right against self-incrimination. No one in a criminal investigation can be compelled to be a witness against him or herself. Because this is a criminal investigation, any statements made by the officer can be used against them in prosecution should the LACDA file criminal charges against the officer. If an officer invokes his or her right against self-incrimination and refuses to provide a voluntary statement to detectives about the shooting, they can be compelled to make a statement that can only be used for the internal administrative investigation, and will not be admissible in court in a criminal investigation. The officer is asked to file a police report and put their statements in writing. LBPD officers have voluntarily written reports and made statements to detectives in the presence of their attorney for decades.
The officer’s weapon is collected and retained by Homicide detectives. The weapon is test fired to ensure it is functioning properly and for analysis by a forensic specialist.
A press release will typically be issued within 24 hours of the incident. This is still early in the investigation and, at this point, there are limited details that can be confirmed with 100 percent certainty. The Department must attempt to balance the public’s desire and need to know what occurred, with protecting the integrity of the case and due process for all involved. The purpose of withholding certain aspects and facts of a case until it is adjudicated is to protect the integrity of witness statements, potential future testimony and to prevent tainting potential jury pools if the case proceeds to trial.
Following any officer involved shooting, the involved officer is relieved of field duty, or placed on administrative leave, or begins scheduled days off. In addition to the official investigations outlined herein, the Chief of Police and the Police Department’s Command Staff meet to review the preliminary investigation of the case to consider a number of factors, including, but not limited to: tactics, equipment, department policy, and whether the involved officer is able to return to duty. Before returning to duty, the involved officer must visit and be cleared by a psychologist to ensure that he or she is mentally prepared and fit to return to full duty.
As the investigation continues, it may include: returning to the scene, seeking additional witnesses, looking for additional evidence, re-interviewing witnesses if necessary, conducting scene recreation using current technologies, serving search warrants, continuing to review all police reports and surveillance video if available. When completed, the case is submitted to the LACDA Justice System Integrity Unit where a prosecutor will review the case to decide if the officer’s actions were lawful or if any charges will be filed against the officer.
At the conclusion of the criminal investigation, a departmental review of the incident, called a Shooting Review Board, takes place. The Shooting Review Board is established for the purpose of reviewing incidents involving the discharge of a weapon by an officer/employee. The Board shall make recommendations to the Chief of Police with respect to whether the shooting was in or out of policy. It shall also, where appropriate, make recommendations relative to any Department function or personnel activity that occurred leading up to the shooting. The Board shall make no findings regarding criminal culpability and is not intended to replace the Internal Affairs process.
The Shooting Review Board is comprised of the following members:
- Deputy Chief Investigations Bureau or designee
- Chief of Police representative
- Deputy Chief of the involved employee
- Training representative
- Peer member of equal rank to that of the involved employee (s)
The Chief of Police will be presented with the Shooting Review Board recommendations separately. The Chief is responsible for making the final determination whether an officer involved shooting is within department policy.
If the Chief of Police determines the shooting may not meet LBPD Policy, the case will be sent to the Internal Affairs Division. The Internal Affairs case will later be presented to the Chief of Police and his executive team. The Chief of Police is responsible for making the final determination as to whether the shooting did, in fact, violate policy and, if so, what discipline will result.
This overview is intended to help bring clarity to the investigative and internal process following an officer involved shooting. We appreciate the public’s patience while we conduct this very thorough process.