Motions ran high at the Police Commission’s weekly meeting Tuesday, where dozens of people waited hours to hear the board rule that officers were not “substantially involved” in the death of a woman inside a Los Angeles jail cell.
For months, activists have criticized the Los Angeles Police Department over Wakiesha Wilson’s death, chanting her name at the commission’s weekly meetings and demanding to know more about how she died. Coroner’s officials said Wilson committed suicide by hanging herself in the cell, though her family almost immediately questioned the account.
“Say her name!” people in the packed room shouted Tuesday. “No justice, no peace!”
That evening, the 10-month investigation into Wilson’s death came to a close after the commission — which reviews all deaths that occur in LAPD custody — unanimously determined officers did not use force against Wilson.
The board, however, directed its inspector general to review all deaths at LAPD jails within the last five years, looking for “any trends or recurrent issues.” The inspector general was also assigned the task of reviewing the LAPD’s policies for screening inmates to determine whether existing procedures sufficiently identify those who may have mental or physical issues.
As Matt Johnson, the commission’s president, announced the findings and expressed condolences to Wilson’s family, her mother sobbed in the audience. Activists enveloped Lisa Hines in a hug as her sister shouted profanities. Hines later fainted.
“They killed my baby,” she cried.
“The commission uses every case we review as an opportunity to identify ways we can improve the department,” Johnson said after the meeting. “We are using this incident as a catalyst to review other issues related to in-custody deaths to see if there are other areas we can identify for improvement.”
LAPD officers arrested Wilson early March 26, after the 36-year-old was accused of punching a patient at a downtown hospital. Wilson had checked herself into the hospital earlier for back and chest pain, according to a redacted copy of a report LAPD Chief Charlie Beck submitted to the Police Commission.
Officers initially took Wilson to an LAPD station, Beck’s report said. When asked whether she felt suicidal or felt like hurting herself, Wilson said no, the report said. A medical form completed at the station indicated that Wilson said she “had mental health issues,” though Beck said officers did not know details of those reported issues when they later booked her.