As the Department continues its year long celebration of its 140th Anniversary, I’d like to talk with you this month about a number of issues. As a part of the Department’s 140th Anniversary, the month of February celebrates the diversity of the Los Angeles Police Department. Recognized as one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse law enforcement agencies with a language bank over eighty languages strong, the Los Angeles Police Department has truly become a Department more reflective of the communities it serves. And with the support of Mayor Villaraigosa to add 1,000 officers to our ranks, the LAPD aims to increase and diversify its ranks even further. The current breakdown of our sworn personnel closely mirrors the very diverse communities we protect and serve. For example, in comparing the City’s demographics to the Department’s overall sworn ethnicity, the City’s population is comprised of 44.6% Hispanics versus 41.3% Hispanic officers, 31.1% Caucasians versus 37.5% Caucasian officers, 12.0% Asian-Pacific Islanders versus 8.6% Asian-Pacific Islander officers, 9.5% African Americans versus 12.1% African American officers and 0.8% Native Americans versus 0.5% Native American officers.
In reference to our continuing crime reduction efforts, at a time when cities across the nation struggle with surges in violent crime, 2008, thanks to your efforts, was the seventh year in a row that we have seen significant reductions in crime. In 2008, your hard work and dedication has driven homicides down another 4%. Angelenos have not seen numbers this low since the 1960’s. Through your committed efforts violent crimes have dropped another 4% and Total Part I Crimes have decreased 2.5% since 2007.
Reported gang crime shows even more significant reductions. The Department’s 2008 gang initiatives proved highly effective with reductions in nearly every gang category. Gang homicides have declined 25%, aggravated assaults are down 15%, and gang-related carjackings have gone down 27% for an overall 10% reduction in gang crime. There were also 300 fewer victims of gang-related shootings in 2008 versus 2007.
As your Chief, there is no more important mission than ensuring the safety of the men and women of this Department. To that end, in 2009, the command staff and I will increase our focus on reiterating and reinforcing the basic tenants of officer safety which are at the core of your training and day-to-day mission. Command officers will directly address this issue with their officers and each supervisor will discuss officer safety issues with their platoons. Supervisors will also be directed to immediately address officer safety concerns when they become apparent.
As part of our continuing efforts to improve officer safety, we will be doing a number of things. Through recent changes to the Use of Force Review and Adjudication process, the Use of Force Review Division identified notable tactical and officer safety issues during the adjudication of both Categorical and Non-Categorical Use of Force incidents. The following are some of the more serious trends and concerns that arise repeatedly and must be comprehensively and proactively addressed by all Department members.
A review of Use of Force cases has revealed a disturbing trend of officers failing to go Code-6 on calls for service or upon self initiating field activity. While there may be occasions when there is simply no time to go Code-6, the majority of cases where failing to go Code-6 was identified as a serious issue, officers failed to do so when there was sufficient time. Additionally, in many circumstances where officers originally went Code-6, they then failed to update their location after moving to another location or changing locations to do a follow up investigation or make contact with a suspect. Failing to go Code-6, or to notify Communications Division of their updated location, exposes officers to serious jeopardy when and if they need help.
SECURING SUFFICIENT RESOURCES
When responding to calls or self initiating field activities or contacts, officers must ensure they have enough personnel and the appropriate tools to address the problem. When officers face a violent suspect without sufficient assistance or the proper tools, such as a baton, TASER or Bean Bag Shotgun, they may place themselves and their partners, as well as innocent civilians, at significant and avoidable risk.
Some examples include: failing to request additional units for a perimeter or to contain an armed suspect; or leaving an issued TASER in the trunk of the car when confronting a potentially violent suspect.
Bottom line – officers should make every effort to maintain a tactical advantage. Whenever you request additional officers or tools, Communications Division will find the resources you need - if not from your own area then from a neighboring area. We are also, this year, acquiring an additional 1,200 more modern TASERs for distribution to the patrol force, along with 10,000 ROVERs to be issued to each officer with individual ID numbers for emergency help identification.
WORKING ON SIMPLEX
Officers should NOT use simplex as their sole primary operating frequency. At least one officer should be on their base frequency or on a monitored Tactical Frequency. The Department has 14 individual Tactical Frequencies, including six assigned to each bureau. The issuing of individually assigned ROVERs will increase your ability to comply with this concern.
While Simplex is a great resource, it is limited in range and is generally not monitored by Communications Division. In short, when you yell for help it is possible that no one will hear you. When involved in any tactical operation, or during day-to-day deployment, officers must have access to their designated base frequency or in the alternative, operate on a monitored tactical frequency when it is appropriate to do so.
REQUESTING BACK UP OR ASSISTANCE WHEN YOU NEED HELP
Another significant cause for concern is the trend for officers to mitigate their need for help. In several cases, officers broadcast a Back-Up or Assistance request – when the incident had clearly escalated to an emergency and HELP was urgently needed.
The policy on Help calls is currently being rewritten; however, current Department policy states that a HELP call must be broadcast when immediate aid is required by an officer. Ultimately, failing to broadcast a HELP call - when help is clearly needed - can cost lives. When in any doubt about “HELP” or back up, call for “HELP.”
In summary, to increase your safety, officers are expected to:
• Go Code-6 and continually update their location
• Secure sufficient resources, whenever possible - prior to taking action or initiating contact with suspects. These resources may take the form of additional personnel or tools.
• Work on a primary or other monitored duplex frequency and only use Simplex frequencies in limited tactical circumstances.
• Lastly, do not minimize your need for help. When you are faced with an EMERGENCY – request HELP.
To be clear – officer safety and tactics is of paramount concern and will receive my full attention when I am reviewing Use of Force cases and other incidents. Furthermore, I have directed the Use of Force Review Division and Use of Force Review Board be vigilant for these and other officer safety practices, and to take these concerns into consideration when adjudicating the tactics portion of a Use of Force case.
Your safety is my primary concern and that of your union and our Department. We need each and every one of you. You count, you matter. Let’s work together to make sure that everybody goes home safely at end of watch.