Former policeman Jeremy Morse was filmed at a petrol station in Los Angeles by a member of the public slamming handcuffed 16-year-old Donovan Jackson onto the boot of a police car and punching his head.

Neither Morse nor his partner Bijan Darvish, who stood watching the assault, have ever been convicted of a criminal offence.

The police were questioning Mr Jackson’s father after a routine vehicle stop when the teenager came out of the station’s food shop.

The assault began after the youth failed to follow the deputies’ instructions.

Morse insists he was reacting to the teenager grabbing his testicles, but that cannot be seen on the video.

When US TV stations aired the footage in July 2002, the incident stirred racial tensions in Los Angeles.

It raised the spectre of a repeat of the 1992 riots after white police officers were acquitted of assaulting Rodney King.

But Thursday the jury in the civil action accepted Morse’s claim his sacking from the Inglewood Police Department was unfair, awarding him $A2.1m.

Darvish, who still works for the Inglewood Police Department, was suspended for ten days for failing to report the incident and was later acquitted of filing a false police report.

He won A$1.1m after successfully claiming his suspension over the incident was excessive.

The discrimination lawsuit from the two white officers said they’d been more harshly disciplined than a black policeman at the scene.

That officer, Willie Crook, was suspended for four days after he was found to have hit the teenager with his torch.

Their lawsuit claimed “a form of hysteria swept the mayor’s office and the chief of police” after the video flashed on TV screens nationwide.

Despite an internal police finding the amount of force used in the arrest was reasonable, “decisions were immediately made to terminate Morse because he had been caught on video perfecting an arrest of an African-American and had used force”, the suit claimed.

“This is not the first time police officers have been trapped in race situations where they suffered unfairly,” said their lawyer Gregory Smith. “This will have an impact in police departments across the country.”

The mayor of the city of Inglewood, Roosevelt Dorn, slammed the awards as “outrageous”, who called it inflated and inappropriate.

“How do you give a man who was suspended for only ten days more than $800,000? Morse was fired, but $1.6 million?” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Ronald Banks, Inglewood’s police chief, who is black, insisted race was not a factor in his decision to fire Mr Morse and suspend Mr Darvish.

“I based my decision on their actions and what I thought their responsibility was. It was based purely on the facts,” he said.

The City of Inglewood will consider next week whether to appeal either the verdict or the size of the award.

Locals expressed concern the award could encourage police officers to abuse ethnic minorities in the area, and said it would only alienate residents from the police force.

Morse and Darvish are not out of legal jeopardy entirely, as Mr Jackson has also filed a civil rights lawsuit against them.

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