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LA's Police Commission considers new guidelines to decrease deadly force




LAPD Officers Jennifer Aguilar (L) and Miguel Ruano walk down First Street in Boyle Heights. The foot patrols are an effort to build community relations in the Hollenbeck Division.
LAPD Officers Jennifer Aguilar (L) and Miguel Ruano walk down First Street in Boyle Heights. The foot patrols are an effort to build community relations in the Hollenbeck Division.
Frank Stoltze

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This week, the L.A. Police Commission is taking a look at changes to guide how and when officers use deadly force.

One of the key concepts is called de-escalation: that's when an officer tries to use other methods to diffuse a situation in order to avoid deadly force.

"We're talking about things as simple as moving around to the other side of a car, backing out of a hallway into a more wide open space," said Matthew Johnson, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission. "It's a tool for officers to use, to take a situation that's at a 5 and to take it down to a one or a two, rather than it go up to an 8, 9 or a 10 and hopefully avoid a situation where use of force has to be used."

Along with Commissioner Robert Saltzman, Johnson is proposing the changes, which come after the 10-year review of the Department's use of force investigations, policy and training from the Commission's Inspector General Alex Bustamente.

RELATED: LA Police Commission recommendations emphasize avoiding the use of deadly force

But the proposed changes have drawn some criticism.

"Most use of force [incidents] happen in a millisecond," said Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents the rank-and-file officers in the LAPD. "Your training kicks in and basically there's no room for error."

Emphasizing de-escalation could prompt officers to hesitate and put them in danger, said Lally.

Commissioner Johnson said the safety of officers is a top priority.

"There are many instances where it's just not possible and if it's not possible, they're not going to be expected to de-escalate a situation," said Johnson. "But if it is possible, if there is an opportunity, then we expect them to utilize their training and try and de-escalate."

According to the Police Commission's agenda, the five-person body will decide whether to formally adopt the reforms Tuesday. President Johnson said that he was "confident" the recommendations would be adopted. According to the Commission, the expectation is then that they will be fully implemented within 30 days.

A KPCC investigation into shootings in Los Angeles County found that over a five-year period, from 2010 to 2014, one in four people shot by police were unarmed.