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SMPD Right to Investigate de la Torre but Used Questionable Methods, Report Concludes  

By Lookout Staff

February 8, 2011 -- An LA County Agency has concluded that the Santa Monica Police Department acted appropriately when it launched a four-month-long probe into School Board Member Oscar de la Torre's actions during a student fight, then referred the case to prosecutors, City officials announced Monday.

But the LA County Office of Independent Review (OIR) also noted in its report that the techniques used by police to conduct interviews and write its report could raise concerns. The OIR made recommendations that "focus on best practices in investigative and interviewing techniques, report writing, training and supervision," City officials said.

Police Chief Timothy Jackman said his department would follow the recommendations and called the review "independent and thorough."

"We are committed to following the recommendations of the report entirely," Jackman said in a statement released by the City Monday. "We will be moving swiftly to ensure implementation."

The investigation centered on whether de la Torre, who is executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center, committed a crime when he failed to intervene in a March 16, 2010 fight between two youths in an alley near his center that was caught on videotape.

A 44-page police report accused the school board member of felony child endangerment by allowing the fight to continue. But de la Torre said he intervened once it was safe to do so.

The case was referred to the District Attorney's Office, which announced in July that it would not press charges.

De la Torre asked police for an apology, which he did not receive. In a subsequent press release, he charged that police "used bias, malicious intent and abuse of police powers to defame my character in a sham investigation."

In October, Santa Monica City Manager Rod Gould requested "an independent and impartial review" of the investigation. OIR finished its review last week, and OIR chief Michael Gennaco presented the results to the City Monday.

Gould said he asked the County agency "to look at (the investigation) from both a legal and procedural standpoint and inform us whether or not the investigation should have been conducted any differently and if there are any changes in practice and procedure that are recommended to ensure the integrity of investigations in the future."


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