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Police Shootings and the Prosecutor in Los Angeles County - An Evaluation of Operation Rollout

NCJ Number
Date Published
75 pages

This report evaluates Operation Rollout, a program in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's (LADA's) Office for investigating police shooting incidents. The study assesses DA/police cooperation and program impact related to police prosecutions and disciplinary action.


Under Operation Rollout, which began in February 1979, a deputy district attorney and district attorney investigator 'roll out' at any hour to investigate police shootings in which officers have killed or wounded citizens. Of the 52 Los Angeles County police agencies, 27 have voluntarily agreed to take part in Rollout. The evaluation was based on a comparison of 234 cases investigated by LADA during the 2 years before Rollout began with 206 cases investigated during the 2 years after the program started. In addition, 20 rollouts were observed between November 1980 and January 1981. Operation Rollout clearly increased the investigations' completeness and timeliness. During the 2 years of Rollout's existence, the LADA office interviewed more civilian witnesses, attended more autopsies, conducted more reenactments of shooting incidents, and asked to interview more police officer witnesses through the grand jury than in the 2 preprogram years. The average time for completing investigations was halved under Rollout. However, the program did little to increase the independence of the investigations; these still rely almost entirely on evidence and witnesses that the police control immediately after the incidents. No adequate means were found for measuring achievement of the goals of fairness and objectivity. The finding that no police officers were prosecuted for unjustifiable weapons use during the program years indicated that Rollout may have helped to deter unjustifiable shootings. Rollout has made LADA investigation decisions more visible. Other changes which may be related to Rollout were a decline in the frequency of police shootings and the proportion of shootings endangering officers or innocent citizens, and an increase in the number of officers disciplined in the only reporting department large enough to show any change. The study recommends that Rollout should continue but with significant modifications. The Rollout team should have complete freedom of movement at shooting scenes, be allowed to observe police interviews of civilian witnesses, and also be permitted to interview these witnesses themselves. The study compares police shooting investigations in Los Angeles with New York City and other cities. Recommendations, tables, and notes are provided. Appendixes present the study instruments, Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff's Department guidelines for investigating shootings involving officers, and letters from the two police agencies. (Author summary modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1981