Southern California breaking news and trends

Police Commission approves changes to counterterrorism program


Andres Aguila/KPCC

LAPD says it's continuing to work with community groups to refine controversial counterterrorism program.

The Police Commission codified changes to a counterterrorism program known as "Suspicious Activity Reporting" (SAR) Tuesday.

Civil liberties advocates had been in negotiations with LAPD for months over the program, which enables local law enforcement to act on reports of activities that may not be obviously criminal if they believe information-gathering could serve national security.

It also shares gathered information with federal and state agencies, creating a database of people, events and activities that law enforcement could potentially use to identify trends and patterns in their quest to stifle terrorism.

SAR was developed in Los Angeles as a way to help prevent terrorist attacks, and has been replicated nationally in a number of cities. 

The problem with the program, civil liberties advocates have said, is that innocuous activities — like taking pictures of an airplane, pointing binoculars at a bridge or praying in a parking lot — can look suspicious. And, they point out, when it comes to Muslim Americans, officers and civilians alike may be more likely to find normal behavior suspect.