U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has issued a statement in connection with the arrest of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson in Inglewood, Calif., on July 6. Mitchell Eugene Crooks videotaped the arrest of Jackson at the teenager’s father’s gas station. Crooks, a fugitive since 1999 since his conviction of driving under the influence, hit and run and petty theft, later was apprehended and is to begin serving a seven-month criminal sentence.
The videotape shows Inglewood Officer Jeremy Morse slamming Jackson onto the back of a patrol car and punching him in the face. In a police report of the incident, another officer, Bijan Darvish, wrote that he had punched Jackson twice before the teen was handcuffed.
Morse and Darvish actually were on the scene to provide back-up to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Lopez, who said that when he tried to place Jackson into his patrol car, Jackson lunged at him. Morse and Darvish said that they saw Jackson hit Lopez, and at that point, their effort to restrain Jackson as the teenager resisted began.
The rising controversy about how violent Jackson may have been in his resistance and how much force the officers may have used to restrain him led the U.S. attorney general, John Ashcroft, to issue the following statement on July 10:
“The role of law enforcement officers in our society is to protect and serve the American people. The events caught on videotape in Inglewood, Calif., last weekend trouble me greatly, because they raise clear questions about whether that law enforcement mission was being served properly in Inglewood.
“Shortly after the Department of Justice's discovery of these events in Inglewood on Monday, July 8, the department asked the Civil Rights Unit of the FBI to open an investigation into this matter. The FBI is conducting that investigation, and career attorneys in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California will review the results of the investigation.
“The Inglewood Police Department has suspended the officer involved in the incident and has launched a formal investigation. The local sheriff's department is investigating as well as the local district attorney's office. The Department of Justice will cooperate with these ongoing investigations.
“In addition, yesterday, personnel from the Department of Justice's Community Relations Service were deployed to Inglewood to provide conflict resolution and violence prevention services to the community there. Community Relations Service personnel already have been in contact with the Inglewood Police Department and community leaders in the area to work with them to relieve any racial tensions and assure the community that appropriate actions will be taken.
“Finally, I spoke with the mayor of Inglewood, Roosevelt Dorn, this morning and relayed to him our concerns and our interest in assisting the community as this matter is under review. During our discussion, I offered to have Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd, go to Inglewood to work with the mayor and the community. The mayor accepted this offer and Ralph is en route to Inglewood today. Ralph has a demonstrated track record in helping resolve situations involving allegations of police misconduct, perhaps most notably when Ralph worked extensively with the city of Cincinnati last year in reaching resolution to improve policing in Cincinnati following riots in 2001.
“The Department of Justice is committed to investigating thoroughly all credible allegations against law enforcement officers for abusing their authority and thereby depriving citizens of their constitutional rights. The department will prosecute aggressively those who have abused their authority and positions of trust as officers of the law, and work with communities to ensure that the proper trust and confidence in law enforcement is restored.”