The Los Angeles Police Commission voted on a policy Tuesday that would require all LAPD officers to try to defuse situations whenever possible before firing their guns, with the specific aim of decreasing the number of officer-involved shootings.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The new rules formally incorporate a decades-old concept called “de-escalation” into the Los Angeles Police Department’s policy outlining how and when officers can use deadly force. As a result, officers can now be judged specifically on whether they did all they could to reduce tensions before resorting to their firearms.
Tuesday’s unanimous vote caps a 13-month effort by the Police Commission to revise the policy. Two sentences will be added to the department’s manual, the first of which tells officers they must try to de-escalate a situation—“whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so”—by taking more time to let it unfold, moving away from the person and trying to talk to him or her, and calling in other resources.
The Times reports that the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern in a letter sent to the commission before Tuesday’s meeting that the revision did not explicitly say that de-escalation would be considered in determining whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable, and without that language, it urged the commission to “refuse to accept the proposed revisions as complete.”
The commission’s inspector general, Alex Bustamante, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the revisions do allow the panel to consider an officer’s de-escalation efforts because commissioners can consider whether an officer’s actions before a shooting contributed to the shooting.
Bustamante said that new training and directives from the LAPD reinforce the importance of de-escalation and the policy change.
According to the Times, this is the latest in a series of changes the police commission has made to try to reduce the number of shootings by officers; the civilian board has also been pushing for two years to get LAPD brass to provide more training to officers that emphasizes avoiding deadly force whenever possible.
Last year the police commission ruled that eight shootings by LAPD officers were unjustified, and according to a Times review of nearly 440 shootings since 2007, that is the highest number in at least a decade.
On Tuesday the LAPD released a 400-plus-page report detailing how and when officers used force in 2016.
LAPD officers had 40 shootings last year, down from 48 in 2015, according to the report, and blacks are still shot at a disproportionately higher rate than others, making up a third of all those shot by police last year while representing just 9 percent of the city’s population.
The LAPD is also at the top of a list of big-city law-enforcement agencies cited in a report as having the highest number of deadly shootings by officers.
The LAPD can be proud of at least one thing:
Police in Chicago fired their guns more than those of the LAPD and had a total of 46 shootings in 2016.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.