The Los Angeles City Council has voted to cut the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget by $150 million. The decision comes after activists have spoken out about taking funds away from law enforcement departments and putting the resources into mental health and community outreach.
Regina Scott, deputy chief for the LAPD, tells Inside the Issues the recent protests, which helped lead the national discussion on defunding, had an unruly element that she hasn’t seen in the past. The department usually depends on what Scott described as “ambassadors” who are dispersed in the crowd.
“So, when people get really emotional, that ambassador would go through and they would police themselves so that we wouldn't have to do so,” she said.
She said police tactics, when it comes to responding to protests or unrest in Los Angeles, have “evolved” since 1992, when riots broke out over the Rodney King verdict. How the officers choose to respond depends on how the crowd is acting, which can include rubber bullets or bean bag rounds.
“So it's something to deter. They do hurt. We talways try to explain that for them and all we're asking is if you just abide by the law and turn around and start walking away, instead of walking toward [them], then we would not use it,” she said. “But it really is the aggression from the crowd at that time and the officers possibly being under attack with what they perceive to be a deadly weapon or could result in serious bodily injury.”
Scott said law enforcement officers are trained to face many different high-pressure situations, but each real-life experience is different.
“Our training, we try to make it as realistic as possible but of course we're not sending 20-pound rocks and cinder blocks and bricks and fire and water bottles that may or may not be filled with caustic acid, or bleach,” she said. “Those are some of the things that are coming toward you.”
During the unrest, one officer suffered a fractured skull after being struck in the head with a brick.
It’s “disheartening,” Scott said, that a small portion of officers can change the perception of law enforcement as a whole, knowing that a majority of officers set out to protect the public.
“I just think you have so many young men and women join the force and they look at that badge and part of what they wanted to do was to protect and serve,” she said. “They have a pure heart and that, when they are lumped in and everyone is the same, I think it breaks their heart.”
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