Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) looks back upon the 30th anniversary of the Rodney King beating and, in this moment of reflection, recognizes how much change was needed at the time, the path we have embarked on since that time, the progress made, and the work still yet to be accomplished.
Over the last three decades, there have been numerous lessons learned and a perpetual and deep desire from the men and women of this Department to build lasting relationships within the communities where historically there has been distrust. Our work is never done as we acknowledge our core value of Quality Through Continuous Improvement. It is in this pursuit of betterment and efforts to greater serve the community that significant organizational cultural change has occurred and continues to occur. The Department each day reflects on how we can better protect and serve every member of the community from every background.
Chief Michel Moore stated, “The Department recognizes that our motto, To Protect and To Serve, is our North Star and the guiding principle in our continuous efforts to better serve members of our community. Although we have matured and are a much different Department than we were in 1991, we still have work to do and the changes we have made are not meant to pat ourselves on the back, but rather to demonstrate our humanity and willingness to listen and adapt to the needs of all of the people we serve.”
In comparison to the LAPD of 1991, the Department has deepened its diversity resulting in a workforce comprised of a majority of people of color and women. Our people today are better educated and more extensively trained than ever before.
In April of 1991, the Christopher Commission was created and subsequent recommendations implemented which became the foundation for future reform. In the wake of these reforms, the Police Commission was given substantial authority to oversee the Department’s policies and procedures and also led to the creation of the Office of the Inspector General.
In the years that followed, the Department created its six Core Values and led American policing in the definition and implementation of Community Policing.
In 2001, a federal consent decree was implemented including 187 paragraphs of additional reform measures. In part, these measures created Force Investigation Division, to conduct the investigations into officer involved shootings, law enforcement related injuries and deaths, and other significant uses of force. This independent and forensic level of investigation with significant civilian oversight has been nationally accepted as a best practice. The Department has continued over the years to make changes in our use of force policy, most recently banning the carotid restraint hold (also known as a chokehold), formally establishing a duty to report excessive force, as well as a duty to intervene and to render first aid.
The Department continues to take steps to increase transparency such as the use of Body Worn Video and Digital In Car Video Systems, as well as being one of the first law enforcement agencies in the Nation to release Critical Incident Community Briefings after every officer involved shooting and significant use of force incidents.
The Department also changed its philosophy of training, hiring a psychologist to review and develop every aspect of training from recruit through advanced in-service training. Additionally, Mental Health Intervention Training, biased policing, crowd control, and command and control training blocks have also been provided.
Officers assigned to the Mental Evaluation Unit now respond side-by-side with mental health professionals setting a national best practice. Recently, the Department reimagined policing and formed a partnership with Didi Hirsch mental health providers to assess occasions when a police officer may not be required and a mental health professional can assist instead.
Additionally, officers have been provided with training to improve capabilities to respond to active or mass shooters. Training now continues to add less-lethal tools such as new Tasers, less-lethal impact devices, shields and other tools which provides other options than a firearm. Officers continue to focus on de-escalation efforts. Although this is not always an option due to a suspect’s actions, officers are trained to attempt to reduce the intensity and seek alternative options for using force, if possible. All of this training has been purposely driven towards a more community-focused approach and an emphasis on greater transparency and reverence for human life. This approach has helped build better relationships with communities where there was no relationship in the past.
The Department has made efforts to recognize the failures of our past and learn from them so we can reconcile with our community and move beyond the hurt to build a better future. In 2007, lessons were learned from clashes between officers and the media at McArthur Park resulting in the Crespo Decision. As a result, the Department made greater efforts to engage the media and to work with them for the benefit of the public we serve. This continual pursuit of improvement ultimately led to the creation of Community Safety Partnership (CSP) areas. These areas where CSP existed saw significant decreases in crime while also seeing increased levels of trust.
This program was nationally recognized and depicted as a model for policing in the 21st Century Policing Report. In 2020, Chief Michel Moore committed his leadership to expanding this successful model of policing and expanded CSP into a bureau, appointing Emada Tingirides as the Deputy Chief overseeing that command.
Other significant changes were made including the creation of the Office of Constitutional Policing, which is led by the highest-ranking civilian in the Department and the creation of a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer. There have also been implementations of changes in disciplinary practices which require the acceptance of all public complaints. Risk management tracking systems, such as TEAMS II and the Risk Analysis Unit, which identifies officers with at risk behaviors were also created.
The Department continues to evolve and has adapted crime strategies that are data-informed and community-focused, leveraging technology into crime reduction. The Department has seen many of these practices reflect positive change including a significant reduction in officer involved shootings. In 2020, there were 27 officer involved shootings which is the second lowest number in more than three decades. Of those, 7 were fatal. This was the lowest number in over 30 years. This is in stark contrast to 89 shootings in 1991 and 115 shootings in 1990.
With all of this progress and reform, we remain steadfast for the further evolution of policing to meet the needs of all of our communities as we enter the next decade of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, there will be exceptions where officers fail to meet the high standards we demand, but we also recognize that the vast majority of men and women of this Department are caring people who entered this profession to make a difference.
We have learned important and valuable lessons from 1991 to the present, and look forward to continuing to show all of our communities and the world that we are a Department on the move to model 21st Century policing for the the next 30 years.