Officers removed iron barricades meant to keep protesters away from LAPD headquarters, and Chief Charlie Beck met with a delegation representing them, as the department — and protesters — took steps to ease tensions stemming from the police shooting death of a South LA man last summer.
Controversy over the circumstances of the death of Ezell Ford flared anew last week after the release of the autopsy that concluded the developmentally disabled man had been shot three times at close range, including once in the back. Police have said the officers said Ford, 25, was wrestling with one of them for his gun when the shots were fired in self-defense.
The movement Black Lives Matter, with members encamped outside the police administration building, is demanding the termination of the two officers involved in the Ford death. They have remained on administrative leave, with pay.
"I do think they realized we are not leaving until they engage with us," said Povi-Tamu Bryant, one of the four individuals who met a full hour with Chief Beck and Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger.
However, Bryant and her colleagues expressed dissatisfaction with Beck's insistence — according to all accounts — that he cannot consider any disciplinary actions until the department's internal investigation is completed, possibly in March or April.
"We know he's capable of more," said Melina Abdullah, another Black Lives Matter member and also a professor and chair of Pan-African Studies at Cal State University Los Angeles.
During the meeting, Beck spoke of his commitment to upholding first amendment freedom of speech rights, and designated Paysinger to work with the demonstrators to work out issues involved with the encampment.
Only Monday, police had arrested Abdullah after she had crossed one of the barricades in defiance of officers who told her to remain on the other side. Shortly after Friday's meeting, police began removing the barricades. In recent days, citizens requiring access to the administration building
had to be cleared by officers through an opening in the iron barriers.
"We'll put them back up if we have to," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "But we hope we don't."
Demonstrators had sought Friday's meeting. City Council President Herb Wesson had lobbied Beck to agree, and also attended the session.
"Whenever there's conversation, it's worthwhile," Wesson said afterward. He believes the dialogue will continue, and believes the meeting was fruitful for all involved, including Chief Beck.
"I think what the chief wanted to do is explain his process," Wesson said.
Friday evening, demonstrators remain encamped on the sidewalk outside the administration building. Their numbers had dwindled to fewer than a dozen, but several pledged to remain as long as necessary to achieve their goals.
"We are here till our demands are met," said Shamell Bell, a doctoral student who has been traveling back and forth from her academic responsibilities. "We're not leaving. Because people are dying."