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Britney Spears' $25,000 6-Mile LAPD Escort

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The paparazzi's extreme Britney coverage is costly to taxpayers | Photo by pointnshoot via Flickr

It took the LAPD nearly "two dozen police officers, a helicopter and a special team" to block roads and escort Britney Spears in an ambulance with covered windows from her Mulholland Drive Studio City Home to UCLA Medical Center early yesterday morning. They even had a code name, The Package, for her so paparazzi listening to police scanners would not pick up on it.

The plan, developed Monday, to involuntary hospitalize Spears for mental illness was supposed to be executed Wednesday evening. Word got out and paparazzi and news media swarmed the gates outside the pop star's gated community near Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland Dr. Police waited until early Thursday morning to execute the plan when the crowd's size decreased.

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Representatives of the pop star told Los Angeles Police Department officials they believed Spears needed a psychiatric evaluation because of continuing erratic behavior. After extensive discussions about alternatives, the LAPD mapped a strategy for getting her to UCLA Medical Center amid an anticipated swarm of paparazzi. [...]

Spears' hospitalization came under Section 5150 of California's Welfare and Institutions Code, which greatly restricts the ability of government officials to hospitalize people against their wills, but allows a person to be held for 72 hours. If Spears won't consent to additional treatment, authorities can petition to have her held an additional 14 days. [LA Times]

In a conversation with the LAPD a few weeks ago about paparazzi arrested for dangerously chasing Spears, Officer Harding told LAist that no special attention was being given to her. That was then. Now, after more than 20 calls to police about the celebrity or paparazzi on Brit-patrol, something had to be done. The department defends their decision for the costly operation, telling the LA Times it was needed to ensure Spears' and the public's safety (notice they left out the paparazzi, heh).

Former LAPD Officer and now City Councilmember representing the West Valley, Dennis Zine plans to put forth a motion today at 10:00 a.m. calling for stricter restrictions on paparazzi.

Paparazzi are becoming increasingly aggressive in their tactics, posing a clear danger not only to the people they are trying to photograph, but to the general public around them. Reckless driving is already illegal, but laws must be consistently applied to paparazzi in vehicles and on foot, so there is a clear message that the law applies to everyone. The City respects the press' First Amendment freedoms, but public safety must be paramount. The motion will call for stricter regulations of paparazzi, including a minimum "personal safety zone" of several feet of clear space between paparazzi and the individuals they are photographing, including their vehicles. Vehicles must be given more space as required for safe movement. [via Press Release]

Whether or not the motion carries and becomes city law, popular spots for celebrities in other cities such as West Hollywood and Beverly Hills will have to enact their own laws if they feel the same.

For more information on the LAPD's Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU), the Daily News takes an in-depth look into what the 47 officers in the unit deal with, whether it be Britney Spears or regular joes.

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