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LAPPL – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-Previous articles have addressed issues specific to the LAPD --  Feet on the Street and Who Wants to Wear the Blue.   

In conjunction with the demands for defunding police departments across the country, more focus has been put on the unions which promote police officers’ interests and protect its members accused of wrongdoing. 

The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) is the union representing the City’s sworn uniformed personnel (police officers) in Los Angeles. 

It handles any and all negotiations with the City. It not only negotiates labor agreements but provides legal representation and insurance coverage and represents its members in grievances, arbitrations, and unfair labor practices issues. And it seeks to assure the safety, welfare, work environment and fair dealings for its members. 

Very often its interests align with those of the LAPD itself, but there are times when the interests of the union, the LAPD management, the men in blue and the man-on-the-street diverge. 

With increased reports of police violence against Americans of color, the LAPD has come under attack in the news by Black Lives Matter, the ACLU and other social justice organizations, and on the streets. And, despite the applicable laws failing to pass in Sacramento earlier this week due to law enforcement lobbying, in this Black Lives Matter world it would behoove the LAPPL to work with the LAPD and proactively release the names of officers dismissed for flagrant misconduct so that they can’t move on to another jurisdiction and re-offend. 

No one can deny there has been ongoing racial discrimination perpetrated by police officers in a system that is structurally racist to begin with. And no one can deny that too many officers -- albeit a very small percentage of the total LAPD force -- have taken inappropriate actions up to and including murder against not only people of color but also the homeless and other Angelenos. 

The Good 

The City has come a long way since the Christopher Commission, set up in the wake of Rodney King’s beating in 1991, identified the persistent and widespread use of excessive force by LAPD officers as a failure of LAPD management to curb inappropriate behavior and demand more accountability. 

And the City has come a long way since the Rampart scandal following which the LAPD agreed to having increased oversight and to promote civil rights. 

The LAPPL worked with the City and its police officers to promote positive change. There have been improvements on screening the quality of new recruits and training for both new and veteran officers, encouraging a kinder gentler approach to public safety. 

The Bad 

To a certain extent the LAPD is being tarred by the brush of more overtly racist cities and more egregious actions. This is not to say that the LAPD are a host of angels. 

But in a world where opportunists see suing the City as a path to personal wealth, the LAPPL has a responsibility to protect its members who are not at fault, whose lives would be turned upside down, their careers ruined and their families put at risk. 

In the light of growing awareness about how race has driven economic and social injustice through the years, Los Angeles needs more than merely taking steps in the right direction. 

Based on discussions the Budget Advocates had with the LAPPL last year, the City itself has hindered positive change within the system by underfunding recruitment and training and ignoring health and safety issues, all of which seriously impacts morale. 

Cost is a legitimate factor, but training more qualified officers will reduce the need for sworn personnel to work overtime. Ramping up the civilian staff to handle clerical duties will also put more officers back on the street. This is certainly more cost effective than hiring and training more sworn personnel and will also help with morale. 

The Ugly While there are legitimate calls for replacing armed officers with civilians in some circumstances, how can the safety of civilians be assured if a situation goes sideways? 

Originating with the LAPD, Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement (“HOPE”) triage teams brought together LAHSA’s County-trained outreach and mental health professionals, police for enforcement, the Fire department’s Fast Response Vehicles and Sober Units to save lives, and LA Sanitation to handle the clean-up.  

Together they have helped the homeless, relocated, and sanitized encampments as well as offered services to men and women living without housing. 

Recently, in the spirit of distancing from perceived affronts of the police, team members decided they did not want armed officers going in with them. But then they found their own lives were in jeopardy. 

What is the cost to the City if a social worker gets knifed when trying to de-escalate a domestic dispute?

Across the City, Angelenos are calling for public safety and that needs to be put ahead of any political gain. And what cost will to be to the police force if City Council sells them out with PC posturing? 

The Future 

At the same time, the union MUST take steps with great transparency to address the legitimate concerns of their detractors. 

The swift and visible removal of bad apple cops, whether for abuse of citizens’ trust or the bilking of the City through false claims, theft, or shakedowns, must be a priority. Visibility is essential to reclaim the trust of Angelenos and to send a clear message to other officers that bad behavior will not be tolerated. 

No more sweeping embarrassing actions under the carpet and paying people to look the other way. 

By not standing in the way of legitimate prosecutions, the LAPPL can help the LAPD and the City reduce the costs of keeping malfeasants on payroll, paying their pensions and avoid future liability payments. 

And, whether required by law or not, the LAAPL can protect communities outside the City’s jurisdiction by placing a no-hire alert on all officers dismissed for inappropriate behavior. 

By reframing their viewpoint on how to best serve their members, the LAPPL can further the police officer’s motto of “to protect and to serve” and the LAPD’s mission of “serving the community while protecting the rights of all persons.” 

The LAPPL must work with its members to address the blue brotherhood mentality under which some divisions still cling to protecting the status quo and each other at all cost to one encouraging officers at all levels of seniority to embrace change as a step towards a more positive future. 

By reaffirming their commitment to serving ALL Angelenos, the LAPPL can be the guiding light to ensure every officer acts with integrity, and the union can reinforce LAPD’s image as the superlative law enforcement agency it should be.

 

(The Budget Advocates is an elected, all volunteer, independent advisory body charged with making constructive recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council regarding the Budget, and to City Departments on ways to improve their operations, and with obtaining input, updating and educating all Angelenos on the City’s fiscal management.) Photo: Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.