Some LAPD Officers Take Aim at Chief Moore Over Black Lives Matter Protests

LAPD officers confront demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter protest on May 30, 2020, following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Nearly 90% of Los Angeles Police Department officers who responded to a survey conducted by their labor union said Chief Michel Moore failed to provide strong leadership during the weeks of unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd in May.

About the same number — 86% — said they did not feel supported by Moore.

"We are leaderless," Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally told LAist.

According to the survey, almost 70% of officers said the command staff was unprepared for the protests. There were complaints of many being hesitant to make decisions for fear of getting demoted for being too harsh with protesters, Lally said — even as many protesters accused the LAPD of excessive use of force.

The LAPD union's survey was far from scientific. About 27% of the department's nearly 10,000 officers responded.

A class-action lawsuit filed by the National Lawyers Guild, Black Lives Matter and the L.A. Community Action Network alleges officers used batons and less-than-lethal projectiles on peaceful demonstrators, and placed arrestees in cramped conditions, potentially exposing them to coronavirus — all with the knowledge of the chief.

Officers who responded to the survey had a different view.

Among their complaints against the command staff: "Not allowing officers to defend themselves when rocks, bottles or other projectiles were thrown at them."

Some officers commented that they were encouraged that Moore was "on the ground" during the first few days of unrest.

But the majority in the survey called him a "politician" for, in their eyes, supporting the protesters. Many LAPD officers were particularly perturbed by the chief's decision to kneel with a group of people demonstrating in the Fairfax District, Lally said.

"By the chief kneeling, he lost the confidence of the police officers," the union leader said. "We know that if you give Black Lives Matter and defund the police an inch, they're gonna want a mile."

Lally added: "They hate you anyway." According to the survey, some officers were angry over what was described as Moore's "pandering" to politicians and groups involved in the protests.

But one former LAPD officer said she saw the chief's actions as an effort to calm tensions. Officers' complaints derived more from their discontent over intense scrutiny, said former LAPD Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey, a regular commentator on LAPD practices.

"Police officers — some of them — are like incorrigible children," Dorsey said. "They don't like to be disciplined."

It's unclear how many officers may face formal discipline for their behavior during the unrest. As of September, 55 had been accused of excessive force and four referred to the District Attorney for possible criminal charges, according to a department spokesman.

In a statement to officers, Moore said he wished he could do some things differently during the protests. He did not specify what, but said he was "committed to doing a better job as your chief."

There were a wide range of comments in the survey. "Quit turning away good minority candidates," said one. "Please, please hire more Black officers."

Various officers commented in the survey that they would like to see the department make more use of drones and plainclothes officers to "observe and arrest unsuspecting individuals committing [looting, vandalism, etc.] crimes."

"Pay more attention to threats on social media," said one officer.

Moore is in a "Catch-22" situation, said Dorsey: He faces heat from his rank-and-file as well as pressure from city leaders to reform police practices. The mayor and City Council cut the police department's funding by $150 million after the unrest and moved it to social services.

That cut rattled the police union, which for decades has enjoyed nearly unrivaled power in city politics with its battle cry always "in the name of public safety."

Now, the union faces strong opposition from reformers, said Loyola Law School professor Eric Miller, who studies policing.

"What we are seeing is a call for a radically different style of policing and resistance from police officers," Miller said. The average officer on the street sees it as a "direct attack on their integrity."

Asked to rank morale at the department, with one being the lowest, half of the LAPD's respondents ranked morale at one.

The union that represents Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies has not conducted such a survey, but its executive director said the department's rank-and-file generally seems satisfied with the leadership's handling of the unrest.

"We have not heard complaints about the protests," said Derek Hsieh of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. Deputies expressed concern about the need for barricades outside one station, he said, and when the union called, department supervisors had already taken care of it.

Still, deputies are feeling a lot of stress, Hsieh said: "It's really challenging to come home to your family and know that they've watched the news where leaders in the community and others have chastised the profession."

It's worth noting that Sheriff Alex Villanueva opted against reaching out to protesters in the manner of Moore — one of the main complaints made by officers against the police chief.

Like the LAPD, the Sheriff's Department faces a class-action lawsuit accusing deputies of using excessive force against protesters.

Villanueva and the deputy's union face a different political balancing than Moore, who is appointed by the mayor's police commission. The sheriff is independently elected and has been free to blast political leaders for their handling of the protests — sometimes cheered on by some ofd his deputies.

Nearly 40% of the LAPD officers in the survey said they were thinking of leaving the department for another police agency. Union president Lally warned that bodes poorly for the department's crime-dfighting abilities just as homicides are on the rise.

Former Sergeant Dorsey had a different reaction.

"If you want to leave, go," said Dorsey, who is African American. "The chief should hire people who have more empathy, more compassion for the communities they serve."

The survey may be a shot across the political bow of the chief — and soon, local political leaders. The union is preparing more surveys on how its members feel about Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council, according to Lally.

The L.A. Police Commission has asked the National Police Foundation to conduct an independent review of how the LAPD performed during the unrest.

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