L.A. police are under fire for last week's shooting of Margaret Mitchell, a 5-foot-1-inch, 102-pound homeless woman. Police say she lunged at an officer with a screwdriver after he stopped to ask if her shopping cart was stolen.
Compton School Board member Basil Kimbrew says, "We want some type of justice, we want understanding, we want to know why! Why! Why! Why did one shot kill one innocent homeless woman?"
A makeshift shrine marks the spot where Mitchell, a college-educated woman who had fallen victim to mental illness, was shot. Her death comes on the heels of the killing of Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old black woman who was shot at 23 times by Riverside police. They say she pointed a gun at them.
Community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson says, "When is it gonna end? I mean, it seems like every week you can't turn around when there's not something happening."
Crime is down nationally and many credit that to President Clinton's efforts to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets. But some say their inexperience can have fatal consequences.
John Crew, of the ACLU's Police Practices Project, says, "We are in the midst of an unprecedented police baby boom. We have thrown officers on the street in great numbers without making sure we have the accountability mechanisms in place with the power to have an impact on the problem."
Police organizations reject the claim that there is a national epidemic of police brutality. Gilbert Gallegos, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, says, "People think we're out there brutalizing people. That's just not the case. Ninety-nine percent of officers want to do a good job."
Close, but even if there is a growing problem, law enforcement wouldn't know about it. While Congress passed a law to count police brutality cases, no funding was provided, so no federal agency is keeping track.