Newly appointed Police Chief James N. Robey pledged this week to improve the public's perception of county police and warned county residents not to judge all police officers by the recent conduct displayedduring the Los Angeles police brutality controversy.
"This incident has brought shame to all of us, from the rookie police officer to the chief of police," Robey told a crowd of about 230 people during his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday at the county office building.
Robey's comments referred to the amateur videotape televised by network news of a March 3 beating of a motorist in Los Angeles. A segment of the tape shows the motorist, who led the police on a high-speed chase, being struck 56 times by city police officers.
But his comments also came days after the county was hit with a $1.15 million federal lawsuit claiming police used excessive force in a January skirmish between three officers and 19-year-old Mickey C. Bowie.
Robey, a 25-year veteran of the county police force, assured county residents that an ongoing "perception problem" that has nagged county police for the past year will be coming to an end.
"I've heard much about the deterioration of the relationship between youth and police," Robey, 50, said. "This situation, whether perceived or real, is unacceptable and will be corrected."
County police came under fire last year by several county residents who claimed officers were routinely disrespectful to teen-agers. The department also was criticized for its handling of an investigation into the May 4 hanging death of Carl Jonathan Bowie, 19, who along with his brother Mickey had filed brutality charges against three county officers.
Foul play was ruled out in Carl Bowie's death.
The officers named in the Bowie brutalityincident were charged last November with excessive force following an internal affairs unvestigation.