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The Los Angeles Police Department chief says criminal charges may be filed against actress Daniele Watts.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck left the door open for charging Watts with lewd conduct, a misdemeanor, during his regularly scheduled monthly appearance on KPCC’s AirTalk with Larry Mantle. When asked by host Mantle if the police are weighing criminal charges against Watts, Beck answered: “It’s possible.”
Watts, an actress who appeared in Django Unchained and on FX’s Partners, alleges that the LAPD accused her of prostitution for making out with her boyfriend in public because she is black and he is white.
However, the officer who confronted Watts told The Hollywood Reporter she is “lying” and that allegations of lewd conduct, not her race, are the reason she was detained. Sgt. Jim Parker says he responded to the call of a couple having sex in broad daylight.
At least one witness also snapped pictures, some of which were published by TMZ. In a text message to the Los Angeles Times about the published photos, Watts’ boyfriend, Brian James Lucas, wrote, “Photos show nothing cuz we were doing nothing.”
Parker and two other police officers involved in questioning Watts made audio recordings of the incident, Parker says, to protect the police. Recordings of the confrontation, which LAPD sources have confirmed to THR are authentic, were leaked to media outlets including TMZ and the Los Angeles Times.
Beck said the recording “didn’t come from a department-issued microphone. It may have come from his own microphone, which many offers have to gather evidence and protect themselves.” However, Beck said the LAPD were investigating how media outlets obtained the audio. “The investigation will focus on how that happened. And depending on how it happened will determine how I feel about it,” he said. Police sources have told THR no money was exchanged in the leaking of the tapes.
The incident in which Watts and Lucas were briefly detained and released — without being charged — has attracted a storm of media attention after Watts’ immediate allegations of racial profiling, as posted on her Facebook page. In an unrelated incident on Aug. 22, black producer Charles Belk was held, fingerprinted and released by the Beverly Hills Police Department — a separate entity from the LAPD — as a robbery suspect on his way to a pre-Emmy Awards party. The two confrontations were linked together in media commentary about racial profiling, along with the riots in Ferguson, Mo.
In response to questioning about whether it was necessary to show identification to police, Beck said, “to prosecute a crime you need a person’s ID, and if officers are doing an investigation, they need it.” Parker told THR that he needed to have Watts identified but did not plan to arrest her.
Beck also defended the officers’ decision to handcuff Watts after she walked away from Parker during his questioning. “Based on the information I have at his point, it would not be outside scope of the investigation to handcuff her,” Beck said.
Watts has filed a personnel complaint against the LAPD officers involved, and the department is investigating. A rep for Watts did not return emails for comment.
Sept. 17, 4:22 p.m.: Updated with context throughout, Beck quotes on handcuffing, identification issues and background.
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