LAPD Police Commissioners approved a new use of force guideline on Tuesday will change the way force is used by officers in Los Angeles.
The emphasis on de-escalation, a tactic meant to reduce incidents of police-involved shootings by first employing non-lethal maneuvers whenever possible. The new policy is summarized in just one sentence. However it will have far reaching implications on police conduct and how officers engage with suspects.
The one sentence which will be added to the LAPDs manual of policies and procedures is: “Officers shall attempt to control an incident by using time, distance, communications and available resources in an effort to de-escalate the situation, whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so.”
The change gives LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Chief Beck greater authority to discipline, or possibly fire officers if they fail to properly de-escalate before opening fire.
The LAPD published a 2015 Use of Force executive summary that found an annual average of 44.6 officer involved shootings in the city from 2011 to 2015, slightly below the average in Chicago.
Last year, according to the Los Angeles Times, the commission found eight shootings by L.A. cops to be unjustified.
In a statement on the LAPD website, Beck said as a result of enhanced de-escalation training and directives in 2016, “the Department did experience a significant decline of 17% in officer-involved shooting incidents, a 52% reduction in rounds fired per officer, while facing an 18% increase in suspects possessing firearms during officer involved shooting incidents.”
De-escalation tactics include expanded mental health intervention training, scenario-based training on decision-making and tactics for deadly force and non-deadly encounters, increased deployment of less-lethal options such as additional TASER's, 40 mm launchers, and bean bag shotguns.
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the police union, said the pressure of officers losing their job due to use of force has caused commissioners to give in to politics. “They might lose their house, their family, their kids because they make one bad move. If you make a mistake, you’re going to…go through hell for it,” he said
Black Lives Matter activists say the policy change doesn’t go far enough. BLM organizer Melina Abdullah noted that during a mental health crisis, the first responder should be mental health workers, not police.
Police Commission President Matt said the board has a “moral obligation to preserve life when we can.”