ACLU report: Anaheim Police excessive use-of-force rate outpaces many cities

The American Civil Liberties Union of California says that civilians in Anaheim are more likely to die at the hands of police officers than are the residents of most other big U.S. cities.

An ACLU report analyzed 33 Anaheim officer-involved deaths from 2003 to 2016, the Orange County Register reported.

The ACLU's analysis found that of the 33 people killed by Anaheim police, 29 died of gunshot, three by Taser and one after being placed in a choke hold, the Register reported. Fewer than 15 of those people were unarmed and more than half were Black or Latino, according to the ACLU report. The ACLU's analysis also found that more than half of the Anaheim Police Department's fatal shootings were committed by officers who had been involved in at least one previous incident.

Anaheim ranked ninth among the 60 largest U.S. cities in 2015 in the rate of officer-involved deaths during during arrests, according to the ACLU.

Acting Anaheim Police Chief Julian Harvey disputed the accuracy of the ACLU report.

''We welcome open and honest assessment of how we are doing,'' he said in a statement. ''Unfortunately, this report falls short with misstatements designed for maximum impact rather than honestly portraying our city.''

He said the statistics are misleading, but added that ''any loss of life in our city is unfortunate, and the use of lethal force is always a last resort.''

The ACLU started researching officer-involved deaths in Anaheim in 2012, shortly after a two-day period in July of that year when Anaheim police shot two men in unrelated incidents, according to the Register. Those shootings, of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo, sparked violent unrest in the city and, later, the formation of the Anaheim Public Safety Board.

Comprised of nine residents, the board monitors officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths and other high-profile incidents and makes recommendations for improvements. The Anaheim City Council plans to discuss broadening the board's responsibilities ''or discontinuing it'' as soon as Dec. 5, the Register reported.

The ACLU report precedes the upcoming review and coincides with the city's search for a new police chief to replace Raul Quezada, said Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the ACLU of Southern California, who co-authored the report. Quezada resigned last month following a no-confidence vote by officers.

The ACLU is recommending the Public Safety Board be empowered to conduct full independent reviews of officer-involved homicides and complaints. Currently, the only reviews of police shootings that can result in police discipline or criminal charges are conducted by Anaheim police and the Orange County District Attorney's office.

Though the Anaheim PD has nearly 400 sworn officers, the ACLU noted that ''just 50 officers'' were involved in the 33 homicides tracked between 2003 and 2016.

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