New Los Angeles Police Commission meeting rules would ban 'impertinent' remarks

File: South L.A. residents speak at a Police Commission meeting. New rules for Police Commission meetings will be voted on Tuesday.
File: South L.A. residents speak at a Police Commission meeting. New rules for Police Commission meetings will be voted on Tuesday.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

A new set of rules being considered by the Los Angeles Police Commission could ban yelling, chanting and "impertinent" remarks during Board meetings. The Commission says in a statement that the rules would help make meetings more efficient and safer for both stakeholders and the public.

The new rules, which also ban posters and signs, would go into effect the first meeting following their passage if approved. The new guidelines say that a person breaking the rules would be warned by the presiding officer of the meeting, and if they don't, comply, they could be removed from the meeting. A statement released by the Police Commission says that the guidelines would also make for more fair debate.

Some people, however, don't think the rules would be so just. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California has taken a stance against the proposed rules, as they believe some of the new rules could lead to censorship. Catherine Wagner, attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, says the possible interpretations of what "disruptive" can mean to some may lead to the Commission suppressing freedom of speech.

"The problem that we have with this, the concern really is that the Board will construe mere remarks as being an actual disruption of the meeting," said Wagner. "If they choose to construe it that way that, they could actually be suppressing speech that is protected by the First Amendment." 

Richard Tefank, executive director of the Board of Police Commissioners, says the new rules are not about content.

"You can say whatever you want to say as long as long as it is within the jurisdiction of the Board," he said. 

Wagner says that while doing something like going beyond one's allotted time during the board meeting may be disruptive, a person's reaction isn't. She says these new rules might incite fear in the public. Banning speech that is profane or impertinent may cause people to self-censor, as they would be afraid that their personal opinions could get them kicked out, Wagner said. 

"Mere speech, just because it might be offensive to people, doesn't constitute as disruption," she said. 

Tefank said recent situations caused disruptions that had nothing to do with content.

"This would hopefully help us get the meetings under control," he said. "So that individuals who want to speak at the meetings on other topics are also able to carry on their conversations with the Board rather than just being dominated by individuals who have somewhat caused disruptions at the meetings."

The guidelines were set to be voted on Tuesday morning but the item was removed from the meeting agenda, pending further review by the City Attorney's office. You can read the proposed draft of those rules here:

Document: Proposed guidelines for audience participation in police commission meetings