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Black group slams chief

A group of black civic and religious leaders led by civil rights activist Sevell Brown on Monday intimated that St. Petersburg Police Chief Ernest Curtsinger was connected to a 1988 Los Angeles drug raid in which three dozen officers ultimately were disciplined for misconduct.

Curtsinger, reached at home, said he had absolutely nothing to do with the incident and, in fact, helped conduct the internal investigation that was critical of those who took part in the raid.

On Monday, Brown, flanked by nine leaders from several different civic and religious groups, said that if Curtsinger knew nothing of the raid, it made him wonder about Curtsinger's ability to control his subordinates. Brown, president of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, renewed a call for Curtsinger's dismissal.

At issue was the so-called Dalton Avenue apartments raid in which some 80 officers took part. Apartment residents claimed that officers used a battering ram to tear apart apartments, destroy appliances and other property and spray-painted "LAPD Rules" on walls, according to a Los Angeles Times story.

Curtsinger, who was second-in-command in the police bureau that conducted the raid, said that knowledge of the raid went as high as the captain directly beneath him in the chain of command, but that the captain failed to tell Curtsinger of the planned raid.

Curtsinger said he made the original recommendations for disciplinary action against the officers involved.

John Burton, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented apartment residents, said Monday in a telephone interview that he had no information tying Curtsinger to the incident. Brown said at the news conference that Burton was a source of his information.