Ethnic protests smoulder after new police-beating video

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POLICE brutality has rocketed on to the political agenda in Los Angeles after a television station broadcast an amateur videotape in which a police officer is seen beating a prostrate youth with a metal nightstick. Last night, community leaders were planning rallies to demand that charges be brought against the black policeman, who is seen hitting a 17-year-old Hispanic youth at least seven times - including an illegal blow to the head - and then using his baton to drag him in handcuffs to a police car.

Controversy erupted more than three years ago, after an amateur cameraman filmed Rodney King, a black motorist, being showered with blows from Los Angeles policemen as he writhed on the ground. A year later, four officers were acquitted of assault charges, sparking the worst rioting in modern US history.

Investigations into the new two-minute video, which has been aired on NBC's affiliate station in Los Angeles, has been launched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles District Attorney and the Compton Police Department - the force to which the officer, Michael Jackson, belongs.

The lawyer for Mr Jackson claimed that the youth, Felipe Soltero, provoked the confrontation by striking the officer on the head, and hurling racial abuse. But the attorney for the boy, who suffered bad bruising, said his 130 lb client never hit the 200 lb officer, and only argued with him because social workers wanted to take his sisters away. 'Rodney King was supposed to teach these officers a lesson,' he said, 'I guess some people never learn.' Amnesty International recently produced a scathing indictment of practices in both the Los Angeles Police Department and the LA County Sheriff's Department. Although this incident involves a different force, the tape seems certain to provoke fresh questions about unduly brutal behaviour by the metropolis's officers.