LAPD Focuses on Use of Force in New Training Series

Activists say use of force refresher courses are not enough to bring about change

The Los Angeles Police Department, under fire for the shooting death of an unarmed, mentally disabled man in South LA last August, is now under mandate from Chief Charlie Beck to get a "refresher" course on use of force training.

Officers from LAPD's Topanga Division were among the first of the city's estimated 10,000 officers who will be required to participate in the 5-hour course for what the department calls "Preservation of Life Training" within the next 30 days.

Speaking to a crowded room Monday, Beck asked the officers to remember why they joined the department to begin with.

"We are in total control of our destinies," he said, "You're not doing it for me, because no matter what, I won't be here forever. You're doing it for yourselves and a lot of you have a long way to go."

The training program was a promise from the chief to the Los Angeles Police Commission following questions about numerous officer-involved shootings in the city in the past year.

"We've always said that preservation of life is the number one thing in policing and we want to make sure that everybody understands that," Beck said.

This comes one month after Beck and the Commission butted heads over what was considered "within policy" with respect to the Ezell Ford case. Ford was shot in the back by two officers. The chief claimed his investigation found the officers were within policy, but the Commission’s ruling went against the top cop.

It's a balancing act the chief says keeps the department and the community in check.

"Doesn't it make sense that five individuals from very diverse communities of Los Angeles would have a different point of view than a police chief with 40 years’ experience in policing the streets of Los Angeles?" he asked. "We see things differently and it's designed for that."

But a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter, the larger of the groups that have protested police policies over the last year, says what LAPD is doing now is not enough.

"Retraining people on how to do what they're already trained to do without any sort of changes is just a waste of time, a waste of resources and a waste of money," said Jasmyne Cannick, who is also a political commentator on social media, print and broadcast sources.

She says the conversation the chief is trying to have falls short of changes needed to come from it.

"Talk is not action. Talk doesn't necessarily lead to changes," she said.

Topanga-area officers who took part in Monday's training session stopped short of calling it "retraining" as well, opting instead for quantifiers like "refresher" and "reminder" courses.

"There is nothing different, this is something we're policing in the same way," said Officer Jesse Mojica, an LAPD training officer.

"It's a refresher, it's a reminder of everything we've been trained to do already," said Officer Jose Moreno with Topanga Division's Gang Unit.

While Beck called the shooting death of Ford an "impetus" for the training session, he said it was not the sole reason, that his officers would be doing this regardless. But he adds that this is an important time in the history of the LAPD.

"Policing is the sole occupation where it is more important how you do things than the result of what you do. In other words the end never justifies the means in policing," he said. "I don't think we have an issue with that but it's a conversation we have to have."

The frustrations faced in the community are not falling on deaf ears within the department. Many of the officers taking part in Monday's training admitted their jobs can be tough, particularly for those who live where they work.

"We just have to keep going out there and do what we're trained to do and do the right thing every time," said Lt. Julie Rodriguez of Topanga's Gang Impact Team. "My family lives in the city and so the thought that anybody, an officer, could treat them unfairly or disrespectful, it would be very difficult for me."

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