LA Police Commission approves proposals to improve transparency, use of force training

The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved changes to the way the Los Angeles Police Department handles police shootings, including increasing de-escalation training for officers and releasing more information about shootings sooner.

While some other police departments already offer real-life simulation training for officers on a regular basis, the LAPD is in the early stages of offering training that includes "reality-based'' drills, according to an Inspector General report presented to the commission today.

LAPD began rolling out the reality-based training in 2015, with all officers expected to take it by 2017, according to the report. There are no plans yet to offer the training on a regular basis.

The Office of the Inspector General's report compared the LAPD's "use-of-force'' policies to those of departments in Las Vegas, Dallas, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

According to the report, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department requires patrol officers to undergo four-hour drill-based training two times a year that includes a de-escalation scenario. Dallas Police Department patrol officers must take part in daylong reality-based training annually. And every two years, all officers with the Washington, D.C., police department are required to take a 40-hour training session that uses a "tactical village''
scenario drill.

The panel unanimously backed Commission President Matt Johnson and Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa's recommendations that the department increase and offer reality-based training on a regular basis.

Johnson said he wants to do more training that "takes officers out of the classrooms, away from the computer'' and puts them into ``real-life interactive scenarios.''

The drills would allow officers to practice reacting to ``potentially volatile situations in a controlled environment,'' he said.

The OIG also looked into other departments' practices for releasing details and video footage of police shootings, and found that the Las Vegas department had the most liberal policies.

Las Vegas police officials put out video statements on YouTube a few hours after shootings, according to the OIG report.

Within about three days of a shooting, Las Vegas department officials provide detailed summaries, including the names and tenure of the officers involved, the shooting victim or suspect's identity and other details, video and 911 recordings, crime scene photographs and information about the evidence that was recovered, according to the OIG report.

The commission today also approved Johnson and Figueroa-Villa's recommendation that the department look at "what additional information regarding uses of force, including officer-involved shooting incidents can be released to the public in an expedited fashion and develop a protocol for ensuring the accuracy of the information released.''

Johnson said he believes "we have the obligation to provide the public as much accurate information as is responsible.''

The commission instructed department officials to report back on the recommendations within 90 days.

Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill expressed support for the recommendations, saying that "we have an obligation to review and reconsider if there are ways we can be better.''

Responding to the OIG report, Police Chief Charlie Beck said, "It's important to look at the other agencies' experiences so we can make this the best police department that it can possibly be.''

But he cautioned that "state laws are different, that union agreements are different, that demands on police officers vary from city to city, so not one size fits all, but all these things are worth considering.''

He added that he likes that Las Vegas gives out information on "the totality of the investigation'' and that the department does a "presentation.''

"I like the fact (the presentation is) available to the public via video so everybody can watch it,'' he said. "So I think those things are excellent. Now whether or not we would adhere to the same timeline that they do, their state laws are different... and in fact the volume of work that Las Vegas does is very different than ours too.''

The Las Vegas department serves a population of about 1.5 million people, compared to Los Angeles' population of 4 million, according to the OIG report.

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