An attorney representing the family of Marlene Pinnock said a lawsuit will soon be filed against the California Highway Patrol (CHP) as a result of the July 1 incident in which Pinnock was struck multiple times by a CHP officer.
The incident outraged civil rights leaders after a video of the beating was uploaded to YouTube. It shows an unknown officer sitting on top of Pinnock, who has a history of mental illness, repeatedly striking her while she tried to defend herself.
A week after the incident, a group of civil rights leaders met with CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow in Culver City, where they called for an independent investigation and for the CHP to release the officer’s name.
“As far as I know, things are proceeding along,” said Pedro Baez, vice president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. He attended the meeting on July 8.
Baez said it may take some time for the CHP to release the officer’s name due to the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, which states that employers of peace officers under investigation “shall not cause the public safety officer under interrogation to be subjected to visits by the press or news media without his or her express consent.” He said police officers have more protections in California than the president of the U.S.
Baez is calling for Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint an independent investigator, but he had yet to hear back from the governor’s office. Representatives of the governor’s office referred questions to the CHP.
“We’re kind of on the sidelines with it,” Baez added.
According to an arrest report, the officer was responding to calls of a woman walking along the 10 Freeway. The report states that he observed her walking barefoot and within traffic lanes at times. When the officer tried to stop Pinnock she ignored his commands and became combative, according to the report.
CHP representatives said that as far as they know, the officer remains on administrative duty. No information has been released about the investigation or whether the CHP plans to have an outside party look into the matter.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, calling on the Department of Justice to launch an investigation. Representatives of Holder’s office did not respond to inquiries by deadline.
After seeing the video of the incident on the Internet, Los Gatos resident Jane Jerome created a Care2 petition calling on the California Attorney General’s Office to conduct the independent investigation. As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 60,000 signatures.
A former activist for Amnesty International, a human rights organization, Jerome said she was “shocked” to see such an incident occur in California. She said she was appalled that a CHP officer would think “he could pummel a woman in broad daylight.”
“It’s troubling,” Jerome added.
She said the fallout from the video and the comments posted to the petition site have shown her that the minority community feels alienated, and that many people have a serious distrust of law enforcement.
“And that’s not healthy for our society,” Jerome said, adding that some people have commented that they instruct their children and grandchildren to never speak to officers. “It’s just a breakdown in the trust in our civilized society. I don’t think we can tolerate that.”
She said she would like to see an independent investigation to determine if the incident was the result of one individual or systemic problems at the CHP. Jerome said she doesn’t believe the organization can conduct an impartial investigation.
“It’s just typical human nature to protect people who are on your own team,” she added.
Representatives of the California Attorney General’s Office did not respond to requests by deadline.
Pinnock’s attorneys will release more information during a press conference today at the FBI headquarters in Westwood.
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