Six weeks after responding to what he thought would be a routine lewd conduct call, Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jim Parker is now in a world of trouble.
“I’ve been placed in what’s called the ‘penalty box.’ I can’t wear a uniform, I can’t be on patrol and I can have no civilian contact,” Parker told TheWrap Tuesday evening in a wide-ranging interview.
The 25-year LAPD veteran is currently under investigation by the department’s internal affairs division as a result of the Sept. 11 arrest of “Django Unchained” actress Daniele Watts.
The trouble started when someone called 911 reporting two people were having sex in a parked car in the Studio City section of L.A. Parker was the first officer to arrive on the scene. “I thought it would be a quick call and I could go get coffee,” he said.
Instead, when Watts refused to show him her identification, the situation began to spiral out of control. On an audio recording that Parker made of the arrest, Watts can be heard telling him, “There’s no lewd acts happening … we’re not doing anything,” she insisted.
“Do you know how many times the cops have been called just because I’m black and he’s white?” Watts asked, as she referred to her boyfriend Brian James Lucas. “I’m just being really honest, sir.”
“Who brought up the race card?” Parker asked. “I’m bringing it up,” Watts responded. “I said nothing about you being black and I have every right to ask for your ID,” Parker went on to say.
After calling for assistance from a female officer, who was accompanied by her partner, Parker told TheWrap he left the scene and didn’t give the incident a second thought.
What he didn’t anticipate: that night Watts wrote a lengthy Facebook post saying, “I was handcuffed and detained by 2 police officers… after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place.”
Watts and Lucas also posted pictures and video from the incident on their social media accounts — and suggested it was a case of racial profiling. It didn’t take long for the story about the African-American actress from an Academy Award-winning film being harassed by the LAPD, to make headlines around the world.
Meanwhile, as the story exploded, Parker leaked the audio recording to celebrity news site TMZ. When asked why he would give what’s considered a confidential police recording to the media, Parker told TheWrap, “I wanted to put a stop to this because of the racial allegations.”
Instead, the leaked audio caused even more trouble. Last month, the LAPD launched a formal inquiry into Parker’s conduct. Then, as the investigation got underway, he did an interview with the L.A. Times – after being ordered not to talk to the press.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office announced that Watts and Lucas had each been charged with one count of lewd conduct, and were facing a maximum six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
In a statement given to CBS Los Angeles, Watts and Lucas said, “We are, quite frankly, appalled and disturbed that the LA prosecutors office has chosen to file these charges against us. The LAPD has previously issued a statement saying that there was no crime committed. If a passionate public embrace while displaying no nudity is grounds for having charges filed against you, then we’d expect that everyone who engages in an extended public display of affection with their loved one will be targeted as well. Sergeant Parker is still under investigation for his conduct and filing misdemeanor charges against us does not change his behavior.”
Parker told TheWrap he feels like he is in even more trouble than the actress and her boyfriend. “I’ve got more charges against me than she has against her,” he said. Among the charges or allegations — insubordination [for leaking the tape and talking to the media] along with discourteous behavior [for the way he spoke to Watts on the audio recording].
He has also been accused of cashing in by selling the audio recording to TMZ, however, Parker emphatically denies receiving any money.
Meanwhile, as the investigation drags on, Parker tells TheWrap he is under so much stress, that he had to take medical leave.
“I’m in shock at what happened to me,” he said.
When contacted about the status of the investigation into Parker’s conduct, LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman told TheWrap, “We never comment on personnel matters.”
As for Parker, he said, “I’ve been getting calls offering support from a lot of other officers.” But he also admits, he ultimately expects to be fired for what he describes as retaliation for speaking out.