Home  » Blog

LAPPL Blog: The official blog of the Los Angeles Policy Protective League

Putting officer-involved shootings in perspective: Part I

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/24/2015 @ 03:45 PM

Following national coverage of officer-involved shootings (OIS) last summer, media coverage of all such shootings has expanded. Additional coverage will be generated in coming months by the Los Angeles Police Department’s determination as to whether several high-profile OIS this year were justified or “in policy.” Each of these determinations will generate additional coverage that may give the public a false impression about our officers and the work they do to assure the safety of the people of Los Angeles, including the over 40 million who visit this great city every year.

The precise circumstances that lead to each OIS are unique, except that in every instance, the officers involved made split-second, life-and-death decisions based on their perception that their own lives or those of others were in danger.

Because we have a lot to say about this topic, we are doing two postings. Part I addresses officer- involved shootings themselves and Part II will address today’s environment which increases the likelihood that officer-involved shootings will occur.

Lives in danger

The critical factor in every OIS is that an officer perceives that his or her own life or the life of another is in imminent peril. The daily work of police officers is stressful and dangerous. They deal with situations in society that most would prefer to avoid. Confrontations with aggressive, violent individuals are increasingly common. A growing lack of respect for the police and for the law in general fueled by sensationalist media coverage encourages certain individuals to be non-compliant and combative. Police officers must be vigilant as they go about their duties of keeping communities safe from crime and danger. Officers are trained to protect the public and to protect themselves in dangerous situations. That will not, and should not, ever change.

Each officer involved-shooting is unique

The specific circumstances that lead to an OIS are always unique. An infinite number of possible actions and reactions can bring on the perception of imminent, life-threatening danger that requires officers to make split-second decisions based on training and instinct. The public needs to understand the vast array of situations our officers face every day—any one of which can suddenly require a decision as to whether or not to use deadly force. There are so many variables in the distinctive circumstances police officers face in their day to day activities that training cannot possibly cover every one of them. Each decision to use deadly force is complex and fact based. This complexity and the need to discover all of the facts is the reason it takes months to thoroughly investigate and reach a conclusion about every shooting.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

New information throws light on why Ezell Ford attacked LAPD officers

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/09/2015 @ 10:10 AM

Ezell Ford booking photo.

Ezell Ford booking photo.

Over the last several weeks, there has been a great deal of public discussion about the Ezell Ford incident, with people offering their opinions on the officers’ actions and Ford’s background and behavior that evening. Opinions may differ, but all should be tethered to the facts.

First, Ford had a history of mental health issues. According to court records, in September 2011, a Santa Barbara judge found Ford incompetent to stand trial for stealing a car, and confined him to a mental hospital for several months. Among the most difficult situations police officers encounter is when they confront mentally ill suspects, who often display furtive or erratic behaviors and fail to respond to officers’ commands in a calm and rational manner. Ford’s mental illness provides an explanation for his failure to respond to the officers’ commands in this case and his erratic behavior in attempting to grab one of the officer’s weapons.

Second, Ford had an extensive criminal record, with a history of convictions for drug offenses, possession of a weapon, trespass and vehicle theft. In fact, Ford pled guilty to aggravated trespass as recently as January of last year, just a few months before his encounter with the LAPD officers.

Third, court records suggest that Ford was a gang member or affiliated with a gang. Two California Court of Appeal decisions describe Ford as “a member of the East Coast Crips gang,” and a 2008 arrest report references “66 East Coast Crip,” a violent criminal organization. In addition, Ford had a “C” tattooed on his face, which is another indication of gang affiliation. These court decisions reflect that Ford was shot by a rival gang in 2008, which sparked a gang war culminating with a drive-by shooting that left one man dead and another injured.

Finally, a bench warrant for Ford’s arrest was outstanding at the time of his interaction with the LAPD officers. Ford had previously been convicted of stealing a car in Santa Barbara court, and was on probation in January of last year when he pleaded guilty to trespass in Los Angeles court. As a result, the Santa Barbara court revoked Ford’s probation and issued a warrant for his arrest.

All of these factors—Ford’s history of mental illness, a lengthy criminal history, gang affiliation and an outstanding warrant—may help explain why Ford concealed his hands, refused to comply with the officers’ directions and reached for an officer’s weapon, ultimately resulting in the officers having to use deadly force. None of these factors have received adequate attention in the press, and it is unclear whether they were considered by the Police Commission.

Opinions are heated on the Ezell Ford incident, which is understandable. But all the facts must be considered in order to make an informed judgment about the events leading to LAPD officers having to use their weapons to protect themselves during their encounter with an erratic and aggressive suspect.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

LAPPL Releases Public Information Showcasing Ford as a Crip Gang Member

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/18/2015 @ 08:58 PM

Earlier this week Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally criticized the Los Angeles Police Commission’s decision that the actions of one of the officers involved in the Ezell Ford case were not in policy. In making these comments, Lally said that Ford was a “known gang member.” This comment gained attention in media coverage

Today the LAPPL referenced public information of Ezell Ford’s arrest record for marijuana possession and trafficking in 2008. This arrest had previously been reported by the Los Angeles Times in an article published on January 16, 2015. That article noted – and is clear on the arrest incident record released today by the LAPPL – that the LAPD considered Ford to be a member of the “66 St. East Coast Crips” with the gang moniker “Lil Easy.”

A Times report from January 14, 2015 points out that shortly after his release from jail on the marijuana charge, Ford was shot in the leg during an altercation between the East Coast Crips and the Grape Street Crips, further indication that he was involved in gang activity and stated plainly in an opinion issued by the unpublished appellate case of People v. Colvin.

The arrest report demonstrates that Ford was known to be a gang member and a potential danger to officers and civilians. In high-crime areas like Ford’s 66th Street neighborhood, police officers’ jobs are even more difficult. Areas terrorized by gang violence create unique risks and officers must address any suspicious behavior before the situation spirals out of control. Citizens living in a gang area are entitled to protection. On August 11 when Ford grabbed for one of the officer’s weapons, as indisputable evidence proves, he immediately escalated the situation, leading to his own demise. Ford was no stranger to guns, according to a KPCC 89.3 radio report stating that in 2007, Ford was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of marijuana with intent to sell and for carrying a loaded firearm. He received a 90 day jail sentence according to the article.

These are all cold hard facts that the Commission should have been aware of when they were studying the case. The decision reached by the Commission and the faulty reasoning behind it was irresponsible and has the potential to put the officers who protect this city at risk, by signaling to criminals that it’s OK to grab an officer’s weapon in some situations. Interestingly, this determination was made by a Commission with absolutely zero background in law enforcement or significant experience in dealing with public safety related issues. They have no basis for their claims.

Perhaps this lack of knowledge is why, when Police Commissioner Madison spoke to NBC4’s Conan Nolan she took to racial tones, attempting to equate a perceived change in a law regarding a U.S. Supreme Court Case to “slavery” or “women’s voting rights.” This is extremely disturbing and downright offensive. Obviously, she would agree that it is not the officer’s fault that while he was struggling over his weapon he was not African American or female. Regardless of any circumstances, reaching for and taking an officer’s weapon is never, ever the right thing to do and officers must retain the right to protect themselves and the citizens around them when that happens.

The real oppression occurs when a community is heavily saturated with gang activity and that oppression comes from the gang’s criminal activity, not from law enforcement. Open narcotics sales and use, juveniles exposed to narcotics and other crime, drive by shootings, and retaliation afflicted on citizens who protest against the criminal activity, are the result. Lack of support of those officers who risk their lives by confronting gang activity will only result in less enforcement and a continued increase in crime.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

How can you trust the judgment of a Police Commission that applies the wrong legal standard?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/12/2015 @ 03:53 PM

The Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners’ act of finding one officer in the Ezell Ford shooting case “out of policy” for shooting Ford as he tried to take the officer’s gun is a bizarre, ill-considered decision that demonstrates the Commission’s complete misunderstanding and erroneous application of case law, and will have terrible public safety consequences. When an officer has to choose whether or not to be proactive at the risk of possibly losing his or her career, we can only assume there would be a negative impact on public safety.

As taken from the Commission report, the facts surrounding the shooting are as follows: The officer attempted to detain Ford, suspecting he had possession of narcotics. Ford turned suddenly when the officer reached him, and tackled the officer to the ground. Ford then tried to take the officer’s gun—as evidenced by Ford’s DNA on the top and body of the officer’s holster. The partner officer shot Ford twice with no effect. With Ford still on top of the officer and trying to take his gun, the officer pulled out his backup gun and shot Ford once in the abdomen, causing Ford to go limp and allowing the officer to get out from under Ford.

The Commission used a “totality of the circumstances” review in deciding if the shooting was in policy, but went off the rails by using the wrong legal standard to guide its review. The Commission applied a holding in Hayes v. County of San Diego, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case that ruled that a deputy sheriff’s “tactical conduct and decisions preceding the use of deadly force were relevant considerations under California law in determining whether the use of deadly force gave rise to negligence liability.” (Emphasis added)

Hayes was incorrectly applied in this instance because the Commission concluded that the initial detention of Ford was “unjustified,” not that it was negligent. According to the Commission, “The legally inappropriate detention of the subject that led to the subsequent altercation rendered the use of deadly force unreasonable and out of policy.”

An “inappropriate detention” is a Fourth Amendment issue, not an issue of negligence as in Hayes, and the misapplication of Hayes to Fourth Amendment issues resulted in the Commission’s absurd “out of policy” decision.

If an “unreasonable detention” was the issue, the Commission’s review should have been guided by Fourth Amendment cases, not a single case involving “negligence.” For instance, in Billington v. Smith, a prior Ninth Circuit case, the court ruled that, under federal law (including the Fourth Amendment), an officer’s negligent act that provokes a violent response “will not transform an otherwise reasonable subsequent use of force into a Fourth Amendment violation.” This was reiterated in another Ninth Circuit case, Sheehan v. City and County of San Francisco, where the court ruled that only when an officer intentionally and recklessly provokes a violent confrontation he or she is liable for the otherwise defensive use of deadly force.

What is a “reasonable use of force?” The United States Supreme Court has determined “‘reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

Applying the correct law, the shooting of Ford could have only been found “out of policy” if the detention of Ford was so unlawful and reckless that it provoked a violent confrontation. The Commission did not and could not make that finding. Even the Commission acknowledged that Ford turned suddenly and attacked the officer. The detention was not as unlawful and reckless as to provoke violence by Ford. Shooting Ford, who continued to try to take the officer’s gun even after being shot twice, was a reasonable use of force.

Equally disturbing is the Commission’s failure to follow relevant California law that holds that even if an officer makes an illegal detention, a suspect doesn’t have a free pass to try to injure or kill the officer. In the case of In Re: Richard G., a California Court wrote that it would “not immunize crimes of violence committed on a peace officer, even if they are preceded by a Fourth Amendment violation.”

The aftermath of the adjudication of the Ford shooting as “out of policy” has sent a clear message that use of force by an officer to defend his or her life will be deemed “out of policy” if the detention is determined by the Commission to be “unreasonable.” Or, put another way, the Commission seems to believe that if an officer should not have put himself in a situation requiring use of force, the officer cannot use deadly force even if his or her life is in danger.

Every person in the City of Los Angeles, police officers and residents, should be greatly concerned by the Commission’s ruling. If you are a police officer, this new misinterpretation of existing law can only be translated to mean that being proactive could cost your career if it doesn’t first cost you your life. While we have no doubt that our police officers will do their jobs, respond to calls for service, and continue to be professional, there is a legitimate and serious concern that proactive police work may become a thing of the past. Instead, “drive and wave” could become the standard for police work out of concerns that legitimate police actions will be judged by political appointees applying the wrong legal standard.

The inability and perhaps unwillingness of the Police Commission to understand and apply case law correctly has led to a terribly flawed decision on the use of force in the Ezell Ford case. As a result, public safety in Los Angeles stands to suffer.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

Commission got it wrong

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/11/2015 @ 03:45 PM

Steve Soboroff at the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting on June 9, 2015.

Steve Soboroff at the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting on June 9, 2015.

Since August we, along with the entire Los Angeles community, have been following the investigation of the Ezell Ford officer-involved shooting and awaiting the determinations made by Chief Beck, the Inspector General and the Police Commission.

In these reviews it was clear to us that what was found was that all of the DNA, all of the independent witnesses interviewed and all of the officers’ statements attained supported the notion that Ford attempted to take an officer’s weapon. As soon as Ford went for the officer’s weapon, he immediately escalated the situation, forcing the officers to make the decision they did in order to protect themselves and those around them. In any instance where an officer has his or her weapon attempted to be taken from them, the officer is trained to assume that the only reason the suspect is doing so is to use it against the officer or an innocent bystander. This decision was rooted in years of off- and on-duty trainings where simulations exactly like this one are played out in great detail. In short, regardless of the circumstances or what may have led up to the events, a suspect reached for an officer’s weapon and the officer reacted in the manner he was trained to do.

After reviewing the facts of the case and relying on his more than 40 years of experience as a law enforcement officer, Chief Beck determined that the officers were justified in opening fire as the suspect attempted to take one of their guns. The Board of Directors and League attorneys reached the same conclusion and such, publicly announced our support of the Chief.

Surprisingly, the Police Commission, who was privy to the same facts as Chief Beck, came away with a different conclusion. It unanimously reached a finding that left many, including the LAPPL, scratching their heads and wondering how the Commission could let the usual protesters and external political forces influence their decision on this extremely important matter. Beyond being self-serving, the decision was downright irresponsible and has the potential to put the officers that protect this city at risk by signaling to criminals that it is OK to reach for an officer’s weapon depending on the situation.

The Commission got this wrong. Instead of focusing on the multiple forms of hard evidence, including the fact that Ford was a known gang member with a lengthy criminal history of violent crimes, the Commission cited and stretched thin the “objectively reasonable” standard established in the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case of Graham v. Connor. A standard that the court later noted should not be the primary driver determination, noting that “reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”

This is not the first time we have disagreed with the Commission, nor will it likely be the last. That said, there have been plenty of instances where we have agreed, even on some use of force issues in the past. We take every case as it comes and examine the facts before determining our official position, regardless of where the Commission, Chief or Inspector General stand. Recently, law enforcement has captured the nation’s attention, and all eyes are on us; however, all law enforcement leadership needs to focus on the facts at hand and not on outside pressures when making determinations that seriously affect public and officers’ safety.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

In Honor of National Police Week

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/15/2015 @ 02:00 PM

This week, the League and officers around the country came together to honor and remember our fallen officers for National Police Week. This meaningful week was established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, and has since occurred annually on the week in which May 15, Peace Officers Memorial Day, falls.

National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives for the safety and protection of others. Each year, thousands of police officers travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in events hosted by National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Fraternal Order of Police and Concerns of Police Survivors.

This year, over 25,000 attendees from departments throughout the United States participated, coming together to experience a common bond, mourn a shared loss and discuss issues that affect police work on a national level. Officers partook in a variety of events including: the Police Unity Tour Arrival Ceremony, celebrating the nearly $16 million raised for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum since 1997; the 27th Annual Candlelight Vigil, a ceremony in remembrance of those who have died; the Fraternal Order of Police DC Lodge #1 Events, a two-day outdoor networking event; the National Police Survivors Conference and C.O.P.S. Kids/Teens, an opportunity for family members and co-workers of fallen officers to prepare for trial, build connections, understand grief and receive support; the 13th Annual Steven Young National Honor Guard and Pipe Band Competition and the 21st Annual Emerald Society & Pipe Band March and Service, musical performances in tribute to fallen officers; and the 34th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.

The LAPPL sponsors an LAPD contingent to attend both National Police Week and the California memorial ceremonies each year. The 2015 California Memorial Ceremony took place May 3 and 4, and honored 18 fallen California officers. We at the League were honored to be a part of these memorials.

These ceremonies were especially important this year, as police have faced new challenges and increased risks. In 2014, the number of law enforcement officers nationwide killed in the line of duty increased to a startling 126 officers, including LAPD officers Christopher Cortijo, Nicholas Lee and Roberto Sanchez. Of those 126 tragic deaths, 50 were the result of firearms, compared to 32 in 2013.

From New York to Baltimore, to Mississippi to our own backyard in Los Angeles, violent acts have garnered national media attention and increased tension between civilians and officers across the country. Officers have been faced with riots, protests, attacks and ambushes from the civilians they have sworn to protect. As we reflect upon the meaning of National Police Week, it is important to remember that all lives matter. We mourn all lives lost due to violence, and support our officers wholeheartedly as they work to prevent these acts of violence and get those responsible off the streets.

The Board of Directors and League staff would like to take a moment to thank our officers for their dedication and sacrifice to help keep our community safe. We cherish and honor the memories of our fallen officers by continuing to speak up for the rights, safety and best interest of our officers. We are so inspired by the great work you do every day, and are so honored to represent you.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

Violent Crimes Targeting Cops – Does the Public Care?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/12/2015 @ 02:00 PM

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of violent events and public demonstrations that have dominated news coverage in outlets across the nation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those communities as they look to rebuild. It should go without saying that the officers protecting the citizens in those cities are facing an incredible challenge – we encourage them to be ever vigilant as they try to keep the streets safe. In Los Angeles, we are all aware of the dangers we face every day as we work to fulfill our duty to protect and serve our communities, and have asked our own members to take special care, particularly in this time of heightened tension.

Unfortunately, the riots and protests have fueled a much larger issue – violent crimes targeted directly at police officers. Just in the month of May, the same month we acknowledge and honor fallen police officers nationwide, the country has seen a total of four officers ambushed and killed while on duty. All of us at the LAPPL extend our deepest condolences to our brothers and sisters in the Hattiesburg Police Department for the recent terrible tragedy that has taken the lives of two of their officers. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate. Sadly, this tragedy occurred the same day as the funeral of fallen Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, and just one day after the funeral of fallen NYPD Officer Brian Moore. Both officers were fatally shot in the head while on duty.

These disgusting acts of violence that are taking officers’ lives are becoming a regular occurrence. It seems like every few weeks we hear of another officer who has been murdered in cold blood, yet we have heard very little outcry from the public. How is it possible that the citizens in these communities are not outraged? Their protectors have bull’s-eyes on their backs and no one seems to care. We simply cannot stand for these horrendous acts of violence, and urge the public and media to demand swift justice for these fallen officers just as they would for a civilian life. Something must be done – police officers are serving to protect and instead are being killed on the streets.

This is a terribly sad time for police officers and departments across the country, and the law enforcement community bows its head in mourning. But that is not enough, and we cannot fight this fight alone. While we will continue to attend officer funeral after officer funeral, it must be on the public to raise enough attention and concern in their local communities to ensure that officers around the country are protected.

If officers continue to be consciously targeted and murdered in cold blood and little to nothing changes in the eyes of the public, what will happen? What have we as a society become?

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

Misperception of safety personnel and workers' compensation

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/07/2015 @ 02:12 PM

Recent Los Angeles Times articles have attacked L.A. police and fire departments for the high cost of workers’ compensation. These articles focus on an audit conducted by the City controller that alleges that the City’s public safety personnel take paid injury leave at significantly higher rates than other public safety employees throughout the state.

These articles consistently fail to include important facts and challenges faced by safety personnel who are injured on duty. First, the Times criticizes the benefits paid at 100 percent of salary that are received by injured safety personnel. The policy is portrayed as archaic, dating back to the Great Depression, and taken advantage of by safety personnel who would rather stay at home with full pay than return to duty. This misinformed view does a disservice to the brave men and women who serve our great City.

Just as when the law was implemented during the Great Depression, full benefits for injured safety personnel incentivizes a single and specific goal: the protection of life and property at all costs. When an officer is injured on duty, he or she is made whole and appreciated by the community because the officer gave his or her all to the community. The men and women of the LAPD accept this as fact, citizens of Los Angeles expect this from police officers, and it is both improper and disheartening to know that the City views its officers with suspicion. While there are those who would abuse this benefit, our culture is not centered on fraudulent and mundane workers’ compensation claims—our culture focuses on serving the community.

The Times’ second error is its failure to address the systematic delay tactics employed by the City in authorizing needed medical treatment. Officers wait months for even the simplest of medical care. This delays recovery and in turn requires unnecessary payment of injury benefits. Nobody wins in this scenario. Not only is there additional cost to taxpayers, but no officer desires to wait months for treatment. No officer prefers the headache and bureaucracy of workers’ compensation over returning to duty. But when treatment is not timely, the choice is to either continue paying benefits or to return the officer back to duty when he or she is not fully healed. This choice puts the officer, his or her fellow officers and the community at unacceptable risk.

Finally, the Times failed to acknowledge that officers in Los Angeles face hardships that officers in other California cities do not experience. Compared to the same period last year, violent crime in Los Angeles has increased 27 percent, shootings increased 31 percent and poverty crime increased 12 percent. To make matters worse, the LAPD is already understaffed by almost 2,000 officers, per capita, when compared to other cities.

The League stands by its officers wholeheartedly. The men and women of the LAPD suffer genuine injuries, and the majority of these injuries receive inadequate or untimely care. The vast majority of officers do not create a culture meant to manipulate the benefits they receive. They seek to recover and get back on duty as soon as possible. The misinformed criticism levied by the Times injures not only the officers it accuses, but the community at large, as treatment and benefits are restricted more and more in the face of scathing media and cost-cutting bureaucrats. The City expects the finest Police Department; our officers deserve the finest benefits in return.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Permalink | Comments ()

Currently reading page 1 of 40.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 Next Page