Los Angeles Police Institute De-Escalation Policy To Avoid Shootings
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Here in Los Angeles, the police commission has approved new rules that try to reduce the number of times police officers shoot suspects. The idea is that officers try to de-escalate a situation before using their weapons.
To talk about this, we are with Joe Domanick, who wrote the book "Blue: The LAPD And The Battle To Redeem American Policing." Welcome back to the show.
JOE DOMANICK: Good to be here. Thank you very much for having me.
MCEVERS: So this new policy says an officer must try to de-escalate a situation, quote, whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so. You have covered the LAPD for decades. I mean how big of a change is this?
DOMANICK: Well, I think it's dramatic, and it's long in coming, and it's necessary. And it's the last piece that the LAPD really has to address before we can really say the transformation that it's been undergoing under Chief Beck for the last eight years is really happening and hopefully will continue when he leaves.
MCEVERS: And that's Chief Charlie Beck you're talking about.
DOMANICK: That's right.
MCEVERS: I mean is this something that we've already seen in other departments across the country?
DOMANICK: Well, it is part of what's happening and some progressive police departments across the country. The chiefs organizations around the country are backing it, so that's one very good thing. Here in Los Angeles, the shooting rate from LAPD officers remains unacceptably high, unacceptably high to the police commission, which is a very progressive police commission, and to Chief Charlie Beck himself.
MCEVERS: You talk about how chiefs in certain departments have adopted this. I wonder about how the rank and file feels about it. You know, it's one thing for the brass to say, we need to make this change. How are officers taking this change as far as you know?
DOMANICK: Well, the Police Protective League, which is the union here in Los Angeles, is vehemently opposed to it.
DOMANICK: They want as much freedom as possible to act as they see fit, and they don't want to be held accountable if they make a mistake. They want to be, quote, "backed up by the chief." So that's essentially it. And plus, you know, they fear for their lives as well. There are some situations where a police officer has to shoot. What de-escalation says is, you do whatever possible so that you don't have to shoot. You take these steps that we're teaching you so that we minimize the situations in which you have to shoot.
MCEVERS: How do you teach cops to de-escalate?
DOMANICK: Well, it's all in the training and in the attitude and in the message that you convey about what's acceptable and not acceptable. But in practice, it's going over and over simulated situations that police are likely to face and critiquing how they're reacting until they start to see a certain pattern that the department wants them to use until their instincts have developed so that they're accepting this pattern of de-escalating situations.
MCEVERS: In all the years that you followed the LAPD, I mean this does seem like a moment. Do you think this really is the final step in a culture change for this police department?
DOMANICK: Well, I hope it is. There's no question in my mind that Chief Beck and this particular police commission is absolutely sincere in believing that this is the proper way to go. And I think that Beck is not going to not try to make this work. It's part of his legacy to make this work.
MCEVERS: Joe Domanick as an investigative journalist who has covered the LAPD for years. He's also associate director of the Center on Media Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Thank you so much.
DOMANICK: It's my pleasure. Thanks for calling.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.