Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday that his department is gearing up for demonstrations when a Missouri grand jury announces whether to indict a police officer in the controversial shooting of a black teenager.
Police departments nationwide are bracing for the grand jury's decision — expected by the end of the month — in the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer. The August shooting in Ferguson, Mo., sparked protests nationwide along with criticism of police.
Beck told the city's Police Commission that his department is "working very closely" with authorities in Missouri and hoped to get "some advance notice of the decision and the announcement."
"This is an issue that we're all concerned with," he said.
The LAPD has also stepped up community outreach in anticipation of the decision, Beck said, and is prepared to deploy extra patrols when it comes.
"We will facilitate lawful demonstrations, just as we always do," he told reporters after the meeting. "But we will not, and cannot, condone violence or vandalism. We want to help people to express their opinions, but we want them to do it lawfully."
Beck stressed his hope that the outreach efforts would help quell potential violence in Los Angeles.
"I believe that the relationships with the Los Angeles Police Department and the communities that are most concerned is very strong," the chief said.
Some community leaders in South Los Angeles have met with the LAPD to discuss their concerns.
Los Angeles is no stranger to police-related protests. Comparisons have been made between the tensions in Ferguson with those that led to the 1992 L.A. riots, sparked after four LAPD officers were acquitted in the beating of black motorist Rodney G. King.
A police shooting in South Los Angeles in the days after Brown's death exposed lingering frustrations the community has with the LAPD. Many residents expressed anger over the killing of Ezell Ford Jr., a mentally ill 25-year-old man who was shot and killed by two officers.
"I don't think you can separate the two," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.
Hutchinson said he and other community leaders have assembled a plan should the grand jury decide not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Civilians will be on hand to monitor any protests in the Crenshaw district, and residents will be encouraged to sign a nationwide petition calling for federal civil rights charges.
The goal, Hutchinson said, is to channel any anger into action and avoid the vandalism parts of South Los Angeles saw in 2013 after a Florida jury acquitted a man in the death of Trayvon Martin.
"Many people are already thinking nothing's going to happen," Hutchinson said of the grand jury examining the Brown shooting. "When I'm hearing that level of concern, when I'm feeling that level of frustration, I have to take that seriously."
Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of the First AME Church echoed the calls for a peaceful response to the grand jury decision. He acknowledged that actions in Missouri — such as the decision to deploy the National Guard — could escalate tensions elsewhere.
"It's not about violence," Boyd said. "We do not need further bloodshed. We do not need violence. We need constraint, calm and peaceful participation."