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LAPD Sends $18.5 Million Reform Plan to City Council

The plan would train officers how to use less violent tactics when responding to mass protests and implement a new team that would monitor social media. But the community-created plan doesn’t please everyone.

(TNS) — Los Angeles police commissioners on Tuesday approved a plan to spend $18.5 million to train police officers in less violent tactics when responding to mass protests, but also questioned some of the new units and technology that would be adopted as a result.

The plan — drafted after a trio of reports last year found the Los Angeles Police Department's response to the 2020 George Floyd protests was largely chaotic and violated the rights of demonstrators — must still go before the City Council to be adopted.

Developed by outside consultants and community activists, as well as commanders at LAPD and at least one police commission member, the planned reforms would change how thousands of police officers are trained to respond to protests where the First Amendment rights of demonstrators must be protected.

More than half of the $18.5 million will effectively be spent on officer pay and overtime to cover training hours.

About $5.5 million would go to a special unit of officers trained specifically to respond to crowd control situations. Another $3.8 million would cover the overtime costs of training more than 4,800 officers in how to use less-lethal projectile weapons that shoot hard foam or rubber bullets, as well as how to set up field jails. And about $2 million would be spent on training commanders in how to organize LAPD's overhead response to protests.

The commission's hope is that the new training would prevent the worst examples of violent police tactics from being employed again in future protests.

"Thousands of people took to the streets to protest the continuing harm to Black citizens they've witnessed in their communities," said Commission President William Briggs. " LAPD reacted by causing harm to some of the protestors."

Some parts of the plan — like a new unit dedicated to monitoring social media during protests — drew questions from Commissioner Dale Bonner, who was concerned about how it would be used.

More than $2 million would be spent on creating a new team of officers and crime analysts who would monitor social media.

Brian Hofer, the executive director of Secure Justice, a non-profit government watchdog, participated in the working groups that developed the training plan. He said LAPD needed to make sure its new social media presence would not be used to profile activists. He noted other California police departments have used social media to target anti-police protestors with arrests.

For example, in June 2020, at the height of the worldwide protests, the California Highway Patrol and some local police agencies were fooled by social media tips about a bus-filled with Antifa activists that turned out to be false, according to The Guardian.

"I don't see guardrails protecting against that at present," Hofer said.

Several activists who spoke at Tuesday's meeting said increasing funding for LAPD was exactly the opposite of what thousands of protestors who marched last year wanted to see.

Hamid Khan is an organizer for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which acts as a watchdog group for LAPD's use of surveillance technology. He said Tuesday that more training for officers would not prevent further abuses.

" LAPD continues to want more money, more training, more equipment," Khan said. "Nothing has changed in over 150 years (since LAPD was founded)."


(c)2021 the Daily News (Los Angeles) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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