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New use-of-force reforms are shift in focus, not disciplinary change

by AirTalk®

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Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck addresses the media at Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said a sweeping set of reforms approved by the Police Commission earlier this month won't have a huge impact on police training or policy, but will mean a new focus for both.

“I don't think there's gonna be a huge change,” Beck told Airtalk host Larry Mantle, “because we already do role-playing. We already do scenario-based training. We already have our fire arms trainings simulators. Much of this is in place, and it's a further refinement of things that we already do.”​

The reforms call for accountability in releasing video footage. They also require that officers favor non-lethal force and undergo de-escalation trainings. Beck said that would only serve to focus what the LAPD has already been doing in terms of training and protocol.

“We require an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death before we shoot," Beck said. "The chief of police can always discipline relative to not acting to your training or not acting to department policy — doesn’t change that one bit."

Beck also spoke about the department's evolving policy on when to release officers' body camera footage, and a recent protest at an event featuring L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey, among other issues. 

You can hear the full interview above by clicking the blue playhead, or read more highlights below. 

Interview Highlights


Beck: Shooting is always a last resort, always has been. As a matter of fact, it's not the last resort, it's the only resort. We require an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death before we shoot…

The Police Commission is calling for de-escalation training, which we do, which we want to expand. They also want to move the wording of “last resort” into the policy piece on deadly force instead of in the training piece, and both of them control what officers’ behavior is [...] 

The chief of police can always discipline relative to not acting to your training or not acting to department policy, doesn’t change that one bit […] 

It is a focus, it is a highlighting, but is it a change?  Did we ever have a shooting policy that wasn’t last resort? Absolutely not. It's always the last resort […]

But I think what it does, and the importance of it and why the commission wants to do it is that it refocuses, or focuses, the police department on its core values regarding use of force. That deadly force is a last resort, that we should exhaust options before we use deadly force, and that we recognize the severity of that option.


Beck: This is something that we're working on. This is something that’s new to policing. It’s being done about 100 different ways across the country right now, all of whom are looking for the right answer.

I think there is video that should not be released just because it's so graphic, it is so personal, it is so intrusive to the people involved. I think that there are many times that police officers are present when very, very bad things happen to people and I don’t know that that should be part of the public conversation other than the fact that it happened. So we have to guard with that, guard for that.

One of the things that everybody agrees on, including me, is in those rare instances when police officers do violate the law in a use of force. It is extremely difficult to prosecute them, so the release of video does not make it easier. As a matter of fact all the prosecutors advise against it, [but] there are all of these competing desires.


Beck: The problem is that whenever we shout somebody down, whenever we deny somebody else's right to express their point of view — first of all, we tear at the very fabric of democracy. We take away what is great about this country — that we can have a dialogue — and then we also stymie any attempt to move forward.

If all you're gonna do is yell at me then we are probably not gonna be able to build a bridge between us, and I think that is the tragedy of what's going on, and all of us see it...people not listening and just putting forth their opinion, where what we really need to get through these tough issues — like when to release video, like what kind of policing is legitimate, what kind of policing do we want — what we really need is dialogue.

We really need to hear each other, not talk at each other.

Interviews have been edited for clarity. Hear the full discussion by clicking the playhead above.


Charlie Beck, Chief, Los Angeles Police Department; he tweets @LAPDChiefBeck

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