Police, Council Try to Button Down Uniform Policy

Bratton is set to impose the ban on Sept. 20

A City Council committee is considering asking Chief William Bratton to delay a plan to prohibit retired and off-duty officers from wearing their uniforms while controlling crowds and managing traffic at film and television shoots.

Bratton is set to impose the ban on Sept. 20. After that date, retired and off-duty police officers will have to wear a new uniform -- white shirt, black pants, reflective vest and a baseball cap marked “Film Detail” -- when moonlighting as security officers at entertainment productions.

Testifying before the Public Safety Committee Monday morning, opponents of the ban warned it could shut down film and televisions shoots throughout the city.

Assistant LAPD Chief Jim McDonnell dismissed those claims, saying the new uniform still has the look of authority. He said the police department is concerned about liability issues, and also about alleged kickbacks.

“There were payments made by the officers to the production coordinators just for getting the job,” McDonnell said. “In business, that may be considered a finder's fee. In policing, it's considered a kickback.

“When our uniform is involved in behavior and practices such as this, it becomes a big deal to us,” he said.

McDonnell said Bratton has the authority to impose the ban.

“As the city code is currently written, (retired and off-duty police officers) are only permitted to use the uniform as dictated by the chief of police,” he said.

Councilman Greig Smith proposed amending the municipal code to strip Bratton of that power, but Assistant City Attorney Carlos de la Guerra testified that may not be enough.

“You need to be aware that any change in the municipal code could result in a violation of the penal code Section 538D, which prohibits the wearing of the uniform,” he said.

Del Guerra noted that section of the California Penal Code states that “any person other than one who by law is given the authority of a peace officer who willfully wears/exhibits/uses the authorized uniform/insignia/emblem/device/labels/certificate/card/writing of a peace officer with the intent of fraudulently impersonating a peace officer or fraudulently inducing the belief that he or she is a peace officer is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

He said allowing retired or off-duty police officers wear their uniforms could be seen as an “inducement” for the public to view them as peace officers, in violation of the penal code.

Councilmen Greig Smith and Dennis Zine said they wanted to ask Bratton to delay the ban, but the committee voted to delay voting on the matter for a week to give the city attorney more time to analyze the legal issues.
 

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