Recently, the Los Angeles Police Department has received numerous community inquiries regarding your Department’s less-lethal force options used for crowd control. Your Department values the inquiries from the community and has prepared the following responses regarding less-lethal force options available for use in a crowd control situation.
Your Department is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all members of the public. This includes the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. These constitutional rights apply to individuals participating in lawful activities such as public speeches, marches, demonstrations, picketing, rallies and celebratory events. Any public assembly of individuals or groups, lawful or unlawful, may require support and/or intervention by law enforcement. Depending upon the situation, the response of law enforcement can range from observation and crowd management strategies, to crowd intervention and control strategies. The police response to each assembly or protest is different and will require law enforcement’s flexibility, creativity, discipline and patience.
In order to safeguard these protections, your Department has policies and guidelines regarding Crowd Management, Intervention, and Control. Crowd Management refers to strategies and tactics employed by law enforcement to manage lawful assemblies in an effort to prevent the escalation of events into an unlawful assembly or riot. Crowd Intervention refers to strategies and tactics employed by law enforcement during lawful assemblies to address unlawful activity, civil disorder, and to arrest violators. Crowd Control refers to law enforcement response to a pre-planned or spontaneous event, activity or occurrence where there is a potential for unlawful activity or the threat of violence.
In determining whether freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly activities are lawful, police officers must not consider their personal views of either the political affiliation or the message of those persons exercising their right to assemble and engage in expressive activities. The responsibility of police officers is to objectively determine at what juncture a demonstration or assembly leaves the realm of legal protest and becomes an abridgement of the rights of others.
In the event a group or portion of a group becomes involved in violent or riotous behavior, the mission of your Department is to protect lives and property and restore conditions to normal as rapidly and efficiently as possible. California Penal Code Section 407 defines an unlawful assembly as: “Whenever two or more persons assemble together to do an unlawful act, or to do a lawful act in a violent, boisterous or tumultuous manner, such assembly is an unlawful assembly.” “Boisterous or tumultuous manner” has been interpreted by the courts to mean conduct which poses a clear and present danger of imminent violence.
During crowd control situations, officers may be required to physically engage individuals who exhibit conduct ranging from uncooperative to violent behavior. In these situations, it may be reasonable for officers to utilize physical force to move crowd members who do not respond to verbal directions, control violent individuals, or effect an arrest. When the use of force is appropriate in a crowd control situation, only that force reasonable to make an arrest or disperse a crowd should be used.
There are no exceptions to your Department’s Use of Force Policy for crowd control situations. Officers may use only that force which is objectively reasonable. Verbalization should be used throughout the operation in an attempt to gain compliance. In determining the appropriate amount of force, officers shall evaluate each situation in light of the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including, but not limited to the seriousness of the crime(s), the level of threat or resistance presented by the individual(s) and the danger to the community.
1- Department’s BATON policy
The baton may be used as a pushing tool to move individuals who do not respond to verbal commands or encroach upon officers on a skirmish line or who intentionally delay departure while officers attempt to disperse the crowd, whether or not a lawful dispersal order has been issued. When a crowd or an individual’s behavior is threatening or violent in nature, the baton can be used as an impact device.
2- Department’s policy on CHEMICAL AGENTS
The use of any Department approved chemical agent during a crowd control incident requires the approval of a commander or above. Chemical agents include CS gas, CN gas, Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), and all tear gas canisters. Before using any chemical agent, tactical consideration should be given to wind direction, safety equipment for officers, and the potential non-effectiveness of the chemical agent.
Oleoresin Capsicum may be used in a crowd control situation to control a specific suspect (target specific), or on a crowd (non-target specific) when approved by a commander or above.
Additionally, OC may be used to control an uncooperative suspect in an isolated incident when the officer reasonably believes and can articulate that the use of OC was reasonable.
Note: During the recent demonstrations in the City of Los Angeles, your Department did NOT deploy ANY CS gas, CN gas or tear gas.
3- Department’s LESS-LETHAL MUNITIONS policy
Less-lethal munitions may be deployed as either target specific or non-target specific (dispersal) munitions. Less-lethal munitions can be deployed by specially trained personnel. Specially trained personnel may deploy 37mm non-target specific dispersal rounds and the Super-Sock round from a beanbag shotgun as a target specific munitions.
a. BEANBAG SHOTGUN
Prohibition on the use of the beanbag shotgun in a crowd control situation.
b. 40MM LESS-LETHAL LAUNCHER
The 40mm Less-Lethal Launcher may be used in crowd control situations against a single subject/suspect as a target-specific less-lethal option.
c. 37MM LESS-LETHAL LAUNCHER
The 37mm Less- Lethal Launcher disperses five foam baton rounds toward the ground in front of a hostile crowd once an unlawful assembly has been declared. It is not to be fired directly at individuals, and only authorized for use by specially trained personnel.