The Los Angeles Police Department rolled out enhanced training for its officers this week focused on interacting with the mentally ill, building public trust and reducing tensions in potentially violent encounters.
Speaking outside one of the training sessions Monday in West Hills, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the discussions centered on many of the issues that have arisen amid the ongoing national conversation about policing. Police departments across the country have been criticized during the last year after a string of high-profile officer killings of unarmed black men.
Beck acknowledged last summer's police shooting of Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man, in South L.A. also was an impetus for the training, calling that fatal shooting "an important incident in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department."
The sessions will cover topics including what constitutes a legitimate use of force and the importance of fair, equal treatment by officers when interacting with the public, Beck said.
"We are engaging our patrol force in a conversation about the national conversation," Beck said. "But I think that we have to recognize that this is not an issue that is just about other places. It's about here too."
"What we do affects people thousands of miles away, the way they feel about their police department," Beck continued. "So this is an important conversation for L.A. to have."
The goal, Beck said, was to train the nearly 10,000-officer department within a month.
On Monday, Deputy Chief Bob Green explained to officers how the LAPD developed relationships with people living in tough South L.A. housing projects, where officers embedded within the community and now lead Girl Scout troops and youth football teams.
"We're not used to the guardian mentality," Green told the 200-some Topanga Division officers sitting in the auditorium. "We're used to the warrior mentality."
Beck said a key focus of the training sessions would be building public trust.
"The chief of police has some influence on the way people feel about the Los Angeles Police Department," Beck said. "But the real people that make the difference are the ones in these trainings because their contacts -- and they make dozens a day -- are those that people remember."
Beck also addressed the officers who attended Monday morning's session -- a move, the chief said, to show both his officers and the public his support of the training.
"It's important for the public to understand that the Los Angeles Police Department takes this moment in time very seriously," he said.