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To correct protest failures, LAPD says it needs more money and officers

LAPD Chief Michel Moore at a protest.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore speaks with protesters in the Fairfax district on May 30.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles police officials want nearly $67 million more in funding and about 50 additional officers to comply with dozens of recommendations for improving the department’s response to protests and other civil unrest.

The estimates, which were detailed in a report from LAPD Chief Michel Moore and are expected to be discussed by the civilian Police Commission on Tuesday, drew a quick backlash from LAPD critics. The protests that exposed the LAPD’s shortcomings, they pointed out, were in large part fueled by demands that police funding be reduced, not increased.

“This is the absolute opposite of what we should be considering,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. “We should be pulling funding away from them, not pouring funding into them.”

Most of the increased funding — $53 million — would be earmarked for ongoing training for officers, including on the use of projectile weapons in crowd control settings, according to the report. Nearly $4 million would be used to create a new bureau focused on responding to large protests and other major events, while more than $2.2 million is needed for an outreach team tasked with building relationships with protest groups, police said.

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The costs also include $500,000 for new software to scan social media platforms for information about protests, another $500,000 to update the LAPD’s manual on setting up temporary jails in the field, and more than $100,000 for new communication equipment for “shadow teams” — plainclothes officers who try to blend into protest groups.

It was not clear Monday which, if any, of the initiatives would be funded. New expenditures of this size would have to be approved by the City Council, which has taken a more critical eye toward police spending since the protests erupted.

The public can submit comments on the department’s report to the Police Commission until May 11.

The proposed measures mirror those called for in three recent reports — one by the LAPD, one completed for the City Council and a third done for the commission — that found mass demonstrations last spring against police brutality spiraled out of control in part because of the LAPD’s poor planning, training and leadership. During the protests, police used force and aggressive tactics to disperse demonstrators, while criminals took advantage of the upheaval to burn and steal from businesses.

The reports each found that training was a particular problem, with untrained officers firing hard foam projectiles into crowds and injuring demonstrators. A federal judge last week issued a temporary restraining order restricting the use of such weapons and mandating that all officers armed with them be properly trained.

The demand for more money comes as the City Council is set to consider Mayor Eric Garcetti’s LAPD budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year later this week. That budget, which already includes an increase in funds for the department, does not include funding for the protest-related reforms.

Through his office, Garcetti released a statement Monday saying he “will work closely with the City Council to ensure that the Police Department is able to make common-sense reforms based on the recommendations laid out in the reports.” The statement did not address a question from The Times about whether he supports giving the LAPD the $67 million it has requested.

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In its own statement, the LAPD said the staffing and cost estimates were “very preliminary” and could come down after further review. Department officials said their goal in putting forth the proposed budget increases was to devise a “plan that ensures lasting change and the avoidance of repeating missteps of the past.”

Advocates for large-scale changes to how the LAPD and other police departments operate have denounced the three reviews of last year’s unrest as biased in favor of police. In particular, they expressed concerns that the reports would be used to justify more police funding, as they say has been done in the past, but not lead to meaningful change.

Abdullah’s group and others have sued the LAPD over its response to last year’s demonstrations.

Instead of ramping up the department’s capacity to respond to protests, they’ve argued the solution to the department’s failures is to rein in police spending and to stop using police at protests.

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“The notion that they should be getting $67 million to comply with those reports, it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Abdullah said. “It is clear they are using the report as a money run.”

Moore has acknowledged failures in how the department handled last year’s protests, including among top commanders. However, he also said the department tried hard to keep people and businesses safe, and that the outcome could have been far worse. He has commended individual officers for their bravery.

Moore has said that reforms are needed to help the department prepare for a new style of protests, in which crowds are more disjointed and increasingly face off violently with officers.

In a letter submitting the reform estimates to the Police Commission last week, Moore said his staff had organized 106 recommendations from the three reports into 66 projects. The department, he said, would continue working with other city officials on implementing them.

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He did not specify how the city might come up with the additional money.

The LAPD already has fewer officers than it is budgeted to have and fewer than Moore has said is the minimum the department needs to police the city adequately.


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