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LAPD's Watchdog Says It's Time For Officers To Learn How To Deescalate

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A report from the L.A. Police Commission says that LAPD policy should be changed to focus on de-escalating situations and avoiding use of force. The L.A. Police Commission released their report today, the L.A. Times reports. Co-authored by Commissioner President Matt Johnson and Commissioner Robert Saltzman, the report is based off of an analysis of LAPD policies and use of force training by Inspector General Alex Bustamante.

The report proposes that LAPD policy be changed to encourage officers to avoid using force whenever they are able in the hopes that police shootings and other similar incidents will decrease. The proposal recommends more de-escalation training for officers, as well as informing the Commission any time changes are made to de-escalation techniques, how officers respond to those with mental illnesses, and how officers use lethal and less-lethal weapons.

While the current policy states that officers should have a "reverence for human life," Johnson said that the recommendations would take this further.

"This can't just be words on a page. The importance of de-escalation needs to be emphasized throughout every facet of the organization," he said.

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Johnson also said, however, that these techniques would be used "when reasonably practical" and not at a detriment to officer safety.

The head of the LAPD's union spoke out against the proposals, saying it would only "screw over the city, screw over the officer" in lawsuits. "Whether it's totally justified or not, they're going to get reamed, they''e going to get second-guessed," Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, told the Times. "It's a no-win situation for the officer."

The report will be discussed and voted on next Tuesday. If approved, these recommendations could change how the Commission looks at such cases, as the Commissioners and the police chief would have to consider if officers could have made an attempt to avoid using force.

A total of 38 people were shot by LAPD officers last year, 21 of them fatally. A total of 36 of them were men, and a third suffered from mental illness. Five of them fired at police, while three of them didn't have a gun at all, but police mistakenly believed they did.

The LAPD has faced considerable criticism from activists who feel that people of color are disproportionately treated with violence at the hands of officers. Of the 38 people shot last year, 22 were Hispanic, 8 were black, 5 were white, and 2 were Asian or Pacific Islander. That means 21% of those shot were black, while only 9% of the city's population is black, according to the Times.