LAPD proposes $18.5 million plan to impose reforms after bungled 2020 protest response

The Los Angeles Police Department could soon end up spending about $18.5 million in an attempt to improve the way its officers respond to large protests, according to a report to be presented to the Police Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

Nearly half of those funds — about $9.3 million — would be spent on retraining thousands of officers in how to use less-lethal projectile weapons, and how to set up field jails that can accommodate dozens or hundreds of detainees at a time.

The working group behind the report said the training is necessary because of the LAPD’s confused and violent effort to quell the protests, which broke out in May and June 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

While tens of thousands of people marched peacefully, some smaller groups smashed windows and broke into stores. Others threw objects at lines of riot officers. The heavy-handed response by police often led to intense clashes.

A City Council-ordered after-action report last year found some officers fired less-lethal projectiles wildly at groups of demonstrators, often at random, frequently hitting people they didn’t intend to shoot. Numerous strikes on protesters — some in the head or groin, in some cases from mere feet or inches away — left them with serious wounds.

With curfew orders in effect, LAPD officers arrested hundreds of protesters at a time, often for simply failing to disperse. Many were left restrained with zip ties, sitting on the ground and later packed into buses, for hours. Those arrestees were then transported miles away to be processed, and later dumped far from their original locations in the middle of the night.

Authors of the after-action report, including former LAPD commander and Police Commission President Gerald Chaleff,  acknowledged the department failed to respond properly to the protests and widely violated the First Amendment rights of demonstrators.

Chaleff also faulted LAPD with a deeply unorganized response that left ground-level commanders and officers with little direction as incidents popped up citywide.

Critics of the department have pointed out that they believe LAPD shouldn’t be using these tactics in the first place.

LAPD is under a federal decree limiting its use of the projectile weapons. A judge ordered those limits due to a class-action lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU and activists with Black Lives Matter, Los Angeles.

And the increase in funds goes directly against demands by activists to reduce funding for LAPD. The city’s police funding takes up a large chunk of its budget each year, with most of that going to officer salaries and overtime. Activists want to see more of that funding go to social programs.

The $18.5 million package of reforms would address a host of recommendations suggested in Chaleff’s report and two others, another external review by the National Police Foundation and an internal LAPD investigation.

The $9.3 million for less-lethal and field-jail training would mostly go to creating a separate unit, called a “mobile field force cadre,” of 15 officers and a supervisor who would take over that training program from LAPD’s Metropolitan Division. Officials estimate 4,875 officers would need to be retrained to use the department’s 40 mm and 37 mm launchers that fire hard foam and rubber projectiles.

More than $2.1 million would go toward training LAPD commanders in how to use the department’s “Hydra” software and hardware, technology the report says was previously used to manage large incidents and coordinate a response but was abandoned due to staff attrition.

About $4 million would be dedicated to other tech upgrades: about $1.5 million for software to track individual LAPD officers responding to incidents, and another $2.5 million to create a team of officers and crime analysts who solely monitor social media.

The total cost of the changes is significantly less than the original $66 million plan proposed by the working group. The “much smaller cost for implementation,” the working group said, was due to finding that some of the resources needed were already in place and didn’t need new funding.

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