A new set of rules governing the use force by Los Angeles Police Department officers was unanimously approved today by the Police Commission.
Cmdr. Richard Webb, who heads the Internal Affairs Group, said the department’s various policies on the use of force are currently divided among 12 chapters in the training manual, which officers found confusing.
“We think what we did is we gave the department a better tool for better investigative inquiries, better adjudication, clearer guidance–it’s easy to understand and it’s easy to teach,” Webb said.
Capt. Scott Sargent, commanding officer of the Use of Force Review Division, agreed.
“Currently, we see a mishmash of different recommendations,” Sargent said. “This policy will create a streamlined, uniform guideline for commanding officers and for supervisors making use of force adjudication recommendations.”
Deputy Chief Sandy Jo McArthur said training officers will be briefed on the policy by next week, and everyone in the department–from cadets to Chief William Bratton–will undergo training and retraining on the policy every year.
McArthur said the new set of rules are “simple, short, and to the point,” and clarifies how a police officer should react when, for example, a suspect in a wheelchair starts to punch and throw things at them.
In the old policy, McArthur said, police officers would be permitted to use a baton on the suspect for exhibiting aggressive behavior.
Under the new policy, however, police officers are required to “critically think the matter through” before resorting to force, she said.
“Even though the suspect is exhibiting behavior that will–under the old policy–allow them to use their baton, in most cases we wouldn’t want them using their baton on a suspect in a wheelchair,” McArthur said.
Webb added another example: under the old policy, a police officer might be considered wrong to use a Taser on a tall, muscular man standing naked in the middle of an intersection, apparently high on a drug like PCP but not harming anybody–yet.
The new policy, Webb said, takes into consideration the fact “anyone with enough field experience would know that if we go up and lay hands on this person, there will be a substantial fight with potential for injuries for everybody involved, and highly escalate the potential for death.”
“I would not have anybody do up and approach that person,” Webb concluded. “I would Tase that person if he was non-responsive to my verbal commands to get down and submit to arrest. Tase that person, get ambulances en route, and treat this as a medical emergency.”
Sargent said the department is developing a “Use of Force Tactics Directive” that will be “a one-stop shop where our policy will be in one place,” He said it is also developing report for distribution to the public.