LAPPL and LAPD have been negotiating a revision of the department’s use of force policy as applied to police dog bites in secret at least since November 2020 — Police Commissioners are involved in the discussions via the LAPC’s Use of Force Subcommittee — which does not meet in public — and is only one of multiple secret subcommittees — none of which comply with the Brown act — used by the Commission to evade public oversight

LAPD, often acting through the Los Angeles Police Protective League, warps just about every aspect of municipal politics to serve its own twisted ends. They’re famous for their blackmail files on local politicians and all sorts of other intimidation tactics in order to strongarm them into supporting every aspect of the cop-first agenda. But it turns out that I had no idea of how deeply the LAPPL has insinuated itself into the terms and conditions of policing in this City until I read this October 2020 memo from LAPD sergeant Joseph Fransen to Chief Bea Girmala.

The context is a meet-and-confer process involving LAPPL and LAPD brass about when police dog bites are counted as a “use of force.” This is an official label, and its application has consequences for the officer. Per Fransen “the LAPPL views something being a use of force as de facto ‘bad'” and therefore they want it made harder to rule that a police dog bite counts as such.1 A November 6, 2020 update, part of the same memo linked to above, reveals that Girmala recommended that LAPD partially address LAPPL’s concerns.

The proposal was discussed by the Police Commission’s Use of Force Subcommittee on November 10, 2020 and again on March 9, 2021. As far as I can see it has not yet been considered by the full Commission.2 In other words, LAPPL, high-ranking LAPD officers, the Inspector General, and two members of the Police Commission have spent more than six months holding secret discussions of the rules under which police dog handlers operate.

The cover story is probably something about how LAPPL is a union3 and negotiating working conditions in private, including disciplinary policies, is a normal union activity. Note that I’m not suggesting that the negotiations be done entirely in public, but rather that they be done in or at least accompanied by closed sessions of public meetings, which the Brown Act explicitly allows for this purpose.4 In neither case does the public get to hear the actual discussions between negotiators, but nevertheless the difference between the two contexts is huge.

If these negotiations were held in a closed session per the Brown Act then, most importantly, we would know they were happening because they’d have to be agendized and described. I only learned of this situation accidentally due to a CPRA request on an unrelated subject, and then at least six months after the discussions began.

Secondly, the Brown Act would require the Police Commission to hear public comment on the issues, if not on the specific proposals. Even though the commissioners are famous for openly ignoring commenters ongoing opportunities to give comment are invaluable for organizing, coalition building, and so on. Giving public comment is a fundamental right in California and the commissioners’ denial of it is a serious violation.

Finally, the Commission would have to report out their actions at the end of each closed session. If no agreement had been reached there’d be nothing to report; the law doesn’t require them to disclose their discussions, only their actions. But if an agreement were reached then the public would know about it directly after it happened. This can’t happen with the current method. Maybe LAPD and LAPPL have reached an agreement, maybe they have not.

If and when they finally do reach an agreement the first we’ll hear about it will be when its eventually placed a Police Commission agenda a few days before the meeting, at which the commissioners will approve it without discussion or debate. Instead of being engaged with the months-long process as it unfolds the public is left in the dark until finally being presented with an all-but-preapproved fait accompli with public comment on all matters before the Commission being limited to a total of 30 minutes.

And none of this is a coincidence. It’s not an oversight on the Commission’s part, it’s an entirely intentional effort to hide public decisions from the public. The mechanics are too delicate, too carefully designed, for any other explanation to be plausible. The immediate harm done by this process falls entirely on the public5 whereas without intentionality we’d expect the harms, maybe even the benefits, to be randomly distributed. I don’t understand the situation well enough yet to take action, but I’m working on it, so stay tuned!

  1. In particular they’re concerned about the following two issues:

    1. A K9 may have to remain biting a person when that person is armed. This may affect recall commands.

    2. If a K9 is temporarily out of line of sight of a K9 handler and bites someone, the handler should have some leeway in recall commands as they may not know precisely when the bite occurs.

  2. But wait! Did you know the Police Commission had subcommittees? Wonder why you never get notice of meetings or see copies of the agendas? This is a big deal! It’s a big deal that’s going to have to wait for a different post, because I’m still collecting evidence and deciding how to proceed. The main issue is that apparently the City has decided that the subcommittees aren’t subject to the Brown Act. The Use of Force one has only two commissioners as members, along with a bunch of police and also Inspector General Mark Smith. They’re probably considering it to be an advisory committee whose members include less than a majority of the full commission and that it therefore falls under a well-known loophole, but I actually think they’re wrong, and that the subcommittees should be subject. And, like I said, a different post.
  3. Don’t get me started. I’m trying to reconstruct their cover story, not to say something true.
  4. At §54956.7.
  5. This is a gigantic oversimplification, of course. The harm falls on the public and the immediate short term benefits as they are perceived by the wholly delusional people running LAPD and the Police Commission fall to LAPD and LAPPL. But as I said, the benefits are short term and the decision-makers are deluded. Their long term best interests would surely be served better by not planting the seeds of their own destruction (via litigation and charter amendments, don’t be a freaking idiot, OK?), but they don’t care about that, probably because they’re counting on gigantic retirement payouts, they live in Simi Valley or Palos Verdes, and they don’t give two fucks about the future of the City they’re wrecking for their own financial gain.

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