LAPD Reform: The Beginning of the End

The call last Friday by two Los Angeles Police Commissioners to significantly change LAPD use of force policy is both dangerous and not the first time law enforcement will hear these demands.  Whether agencies and leaders cave in to these short sighted and dangerous demands will determine if law enforcement will be capable of protecting themselves and the public for years to come.

The recommendation for LAPD to specifically evaluate whether officers could have done more to defuse tense encounters and to seek ways to avoid using significant force whenever possible sounds great on paper but is a dangerous and deadly road to disaster for law enforcement that follows it.

LAPD and others want additional requirements to be evaluated when officers use deadly force including if the officer used “de-escalation” strategies and whether officers could have tried to avoid using deadly force.

While it sounds and feels good, those requirements are not part of the signature Supreme Court Case that governs every use of force encounter in American Law Enforcement, Graham v. Connor (1989) and there are real reasons the court didn’t address it.  Those demands place additional disadvantages on the police officer having to make a “split second” decision for their life.

What Is This About
The talk of changing the rules without the courts didn’t just now happen in Los Angeles.  It was prompted and grown out of the lie that was Ferguson. The Department of Justice ran to Ferguson, Missouri and all but promised the protesters that they would prosecute the officer involved but there turned out to be a small problem.  The law of the land (Graham v. Connor) clearly stated that Officer Darren Wilson did nothing wrong.  The “Hands up…Don’t shoot” mantra was a lie and when the investigation was completed by that same Justice Department, they found that Darren acted within his legal scope as a police officer.

How could this be?  Why couldn’t this prosecution occur and in other shootings, the same thing happened.  Officers would use deadly force to protect their life and the protesters would scream for prosecution and when the investigation was complete, an indictment was impossible.

Every police officer in America should be thankful that grand juries have to follow the law and not what politicians think.

In fact, the Los Angeles Times pointed out that in six counties, over 2000 suspects had been shot my law enforcement since 2004 but only one officer was prosecuted.  Apparently, this is unacceptable and something must be done!

Why Is This Dangerous?
This is what is being done.  Despite the United States Supreme Court, there is a large atempt to change the rules. It started with Ferguson and PERF quickly picked up the mantle.  The Michael Brown incident should have never occurred PERF surmised.  Yes, Brown was walking in the middle of the street after committing a violent robbery and yes Officer Darren Wilson drove up to him (not knowing the robbery occurred) and asked him to get out of the roadway which caused Brown to attack Wilson and the ensuing altercation would end in the use of deadly force.

The question was recently asked at a PERF Meeting on how Officer Wilson should have handled this violent felon.

It’s simple they stated.  Wilson should have never approached him walking down the middle of the street.  It was that initial encounter that ultimately caused the use of deadly force.

Yes, soak that in for a minute.  This is the ideology that follows what those in LAPD, PERF and others want our policy to reflect.  It sounds innocent but it is dangerous and it is the only way “they” get what they want.  More cop indictments!

How Will This be Accomplished
Some are reading this and you think, this will never happen in my agency.  I will warn you about that thinking.  The playbook is already there and the players are lining up.  The White House, PERF, DOJ and some major city chiefs are on the team now and they are recruiting and once they grab CALEA or IACP, common sense will be lost.  How will they do this?

It’s About the Money
They have done it before and they will do it again.  Several years ago the government gave a mandate to law enforcement.  They had to wear ANSI Level II Vests when conducting traffic management on federally funded highways. It was an unfunded mandate and when agencies protested that they might not be able to afford the change the government simply said that they would restrict highway money from their communities….millions of it.  A few years ago, the government made it mandatory for law enforcement to wear ballistic vests.  If you did not comply, any grant funds you used to purchase those vests would be gone

Those mandates make law enforcement safer.  Changing use of force standards make it more dangerous.

There will be significant pressure on agencies and leaders to modify use of force policy despite the courts not supporting that change.  The general budgets in most agencies almost all go towards personnel costs.  There is a huge reliance on those agencies to use government grants to pay for needed equipment and resources.  The Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant is just one funding mechanism and it awards close to 300 million dollars a year to law enforcement agencies.  I know agencies that wouldn’t have basic equipment if it wasn’t for this grant.  Imagine if you were a chief and all you have to do to continue to receiving this grant is to change a couple of sentences in your use of force policy?  What if CALEA threatens to not certify your agency if your policy does not reflect these changes?  For even those that agree with not changing the rules, the decision is not as easy as it may seem.

What Must Be Done
Agencies and their leaders must first recognize that this is coming and they must push back but you can only push back if your closet is in order.  We suggest the following:

  1.  Make sure your policies are in order.  We recommend Lexipol as an excellent resource.  They have a team of lawyers that will update your policy as soon as it is needed.
  2. Train, Train and Train more.  Your officers need to be qualifying with their handgun every quarter and their training should consist of scenario based, stress inoculation training.  Additional training on de-escalation and the mentally ill is a must.
  3. You need to get your finances in order.  It’s not a matter of if this is going to happen, it’s going to happen.  If you want to keep your officers as safe as possible, then say goodbye to your grant money.  Work within your current budget and form a foundation so your citizens can donate needed equipment, etc. to your officers.
  4. You should educate your community.  Most citizens would not see an issue with what PERF is advocating and LAPD is looking at.  We recommend educating your citizens, community leaders and politicians.  That can take many forms but many agencies put together one day seminars or citizen police academies to help others understand.

It Takes Real Leadership
The next decade in law enforcement will be the most important we have ever seen.  The time is over for weak, spineless leaders in the profession.  Today law enforcement is the most trained, professional and educated the country has ever known.  Our leadership needs to understand that, maintain that and rise up to the challenges that are already here.


Facebook Comments




  1. Chas

    I will feel much less safe for myself, my family and others if this ridiculous nonsense becomes a reality. What we need is to revamp our government at all levels.

  2. Keiffer

    Full of salient points. Don’t stop beiliveng or writing!

  3. Ken Pryor

    So glad I’m retired now. I don’t think I want any part of policing in the next few years. Great article.

  4. Randy love

    As to the question. I didn’t think it’s the policy change. It’s more so the really bad guys out there who thing killing a cop is the thing to do.

  5. Scott keller

    CALEA is a money making scheme. There are agencies certified by them that have less than adequate investigators and patrol offices. Many of these certified agencies have low morale and a high turnover rate. Policies are necessary as guidelines, but they are just that guidelines. There are situations that arise that require on scene decisions that sometimes are not within written policy. If properly articulated these decisions should not be second guessed because of policy. Reports, policies, guidelines are necessary, but I can’t think of a reason that a single entity should decide what is correct or a standard for all agencies in order to obtain certification. If this is so important than review all agencies policies for free, and give them their certification when they reach your lofty standards.

  6. Rich Bryant

    This is not just dangerous to LEO, it presents a significant threat to the public. The “split second” decision of force is not just an ideology rooted in liberal fantasy of excessive force. The “split second” decision is rooted in training mandated several times a year making the LEO not only proficient but develops the proper split second thought process that effectively applies use of force. Most departments train annually in active shooter; a lethal criminal phenomenon that is very prevalent in today’s society and must be met with quick and neutralizing force. As a 38 year LEO veteran and still active I can readily assure the public there is no joy in the excercise of force. Hurting other humans conflicts with the moral conscience and fabric of law enforcement. However the armchair quarterbacks that want to dictate policy for political correctness do NOT have the safety of society and law enforcement in focus. God protect our country and the Thin Blue Line.

    • Clara

      I’m impressed! You’ve managed the almost imibespols.

  7. M Healy

    Don’t worry about your grant money. Your state legislators will codify the PERF standards into law. An Officer’s only recourse will be an expensive court challenge-after he’s been charged. Then it’ll be a crapshoot as to whether his state court(s) will declare the law unconstitutional. Maybe, just maybe, the Supreme Court of the United States, would hear an appeal of a state’s court upholding of a “PERF” statute. With Justice Scalia gone and the court of public (media) in session, how long does anyone expect Graham v Connor to last?
    We’ll be glad (and lucky) if all that we lose is grant money…

    • Pokey

      Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good inmfnoatior.

  8. Cops Lie

    April 14, 2015
    Video shows Reserve Deputy Robert Bates announcing he is going to deploy his Taser but then shooting Eric Courtney Harris in the back with a handgun. His attorney and the police department announce he used “reasonable force” and shooting was an “excusable homicide.”

    July 20, 2010
    Five more Tulsa police officers were indicted and arrested Tuesday, following a federal grand jury investigation of corruption in the department. The indictment alleged Henderson and Yelton persuaded a witness to testify falsely against a man who was convicted in a drug case and sent to prison. Bonham, DeBruin and Wells were accused of planting drug evidence on people they arrested.

    Aug 06, 2014
    2 Tulsa police officers were arrested Tuesday night in connection with a deadly shooting. Sergeant Dave Walker identified them as Shannon Kepler, 54, and his wife, Gina Kepler, 48. Walker says police were called about a shooting in the 200 block of North Maybelle at 9:16 p.m. That is where they found the body of Jeremy Lake, 19.

    Aug 19, 2015
    At least 14 cops have been charged in recent months with committing murder, homicide, or manslaughter while on duty. 2 Albuquerque for killing a homeless man as he surrendered, 2 East Point police officers who murdered a 24-year-old father, a Fairfax County cop who shot an unarmed Springfield man who stood with his hands raised in the doorway of his home, Cincinnati cop Ray Tensing murdered an unarmed motorist during a traffic stop, cop Michael Slager for shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as he ran away from a traffic stop, six Baltimore cops who murdered Freddie Gray. In every case, their attorneys or the Police Protective Unions have claimed they used reasonable force; even in light of video proof to the contrary.

    And Major Travis Yates expects us to take his word that changing use of force policy is dangerous and that all cops are righteous? Who is he trying to kid?

    • Law Officer

      We aren’t sure by listing examples of where police officers were arrested you are proving your point? They were arrested under the current use of force guidelines that the United States Supreme Court recognizes….not what you or a politician recognizes. We also didn’t see Major Yates saying “that all cops are righteous.” When you lie, it hurts your argument.

      • Sanne

        Slam dunkin like Shaquille O’Neal, if he wrote infromative articles.

  9. Ron Martinelli, Forensic Criminologist

    As a police practices expert and Team Leader for a Independent Review Team, I certainly foresee trouble ahead for law enforcement if agencies adopt some of the PERF recommendations made by police administrators who generally lack the experience and field craft, facing the extreme challenges of today’s LEOs. An officer(s) is often faced by sudden circumstances of “preclusion” where they either apply various non-forceful, or lower force techniques, tactics, or weaponry to resolve violent subjects. Officer Darren Wilson’s encounter with Michael Brown underscores this. Under PERF guidelines, PO Wilson might have been fired. Department policies often are more restrictive than USCt case law and training is weak because no one wants to spend the money and time, or pay for the equipment officers need in the field. This is disgraceful and places officers and citizens at unnecessary risk. Agencies that cannot afford to train and equip officers have no business having a police department. They are doomed to fail. officers also have to change their mindset with respect to field craft. Use pre-contact threat assessment whenever possible; lose the “I’ve got to get them” macho attitude; and have studied responses, rather than emotional reactions to resistance. Plan your work and work your plan. Study your craft. This is not a benefitted 8-5 job; it’s a professional calling and a career!

    • Law Officer

      Thank you sir for your insight. Our profession is better because of your research and training.

  10. Hal Koenig

    The suggestions are on point and are great recommendations, regardless of the situation. The only further comment I have is don’t forget, the “Republic of California” is the home of the 9th Circuit Court…need I say more?

  11. Joe

    Powerful forces from the White House on down want to emasculate all local and state police forces, while at the same time empowering Federal forces. This is a political power grab that reflects control shifting to a preferred political demographic. It’s not about a kinder and gentler police force. It is, as Lenin said, about “Who does what to whom”.

  12. Van Hamlin

    I supervised a large Crisis Intervention Team, which spanned the road, the courts and detention. All were sworn officers who volunteered to become crisis intervention specialists. By the time I retired, most personnel wishing to get promoted demanded entry into this program because it taught them how to deal with people without using forced or overbearing application of authority. They were all well trained in deescalation techniques and were armed with Tasers. The program worked well. It improved the safety of both the suspect and our officers. In our policy and our training there was a large section on the use of lethal force. Nothing like having a mentally ill person charge down the hallway of a trailer at you with a butcher knife!

    There are criminals that are perfectly rational when they commit crimes and resist arrest. In these cases, deescalation has to address hatred. This could be hatred of a race, someone’s ethnic heritage, or just the hatred of authority. If these suspects are armed, I do not recommend face-to-face negotiations. Helping someone deal with their own demons takes a long time and involves a certain amount of self motivation. It is much safer for both the officer and the suspect, for an armed officer to engage the suspect with a drawn weapon while he utilizes good body language and the proper commands to put the suspect on notice that his failure to comply with your directives mat result in him being injured or killed. Remember, an officer’s professional appearance and his conversation with the suspect are both fundamental to successful deescalation.

    PERF has a politacl agenda rather than a legitimate safety agenda. PERF’s assertion that Michael Brown should not have been approached in the middle of the street is ludicrous. We all have seen the hatred his step father spewed during the riots. We all know that Brown believed he was above the law. Brown robbed at will and rebuffed constructive directives from authority figures in general. What should have happened was the officer picking a location for the contact where he optimized his own safety and provided his backup time to head his way. I don’t know what words and gestures officer Wilson had time to utilize in his initial contact with Brown. I doubt if they would have altered the outcome. Sometimes, deadly force becomes the only action that will ensure the life of the officer or the other people a suspect may attack with the officer’s weapons.

    My advice to all police departments is to take whatever funds are made available for training and equipment and set up a comprehensive Crisis Intervention Program based on the Memphis Model. You will find that everyone benefits from this training because CIT’s working with fellow road officers tend to teach their skills to everyone. There will be mentally ill persons saved from old fashioned police thumpings and being killed. Grand Juries love it when an officer honestly advises them that he started to deescalate the suspect when the suspect suddenly attacked them. Obviously, this does not apply to shoot outs. I recommend safely constructed crossfires for those situations.

  13. Sam

    The anti police sentiment is motivated by people’s personal experience with the police. I have experienced first hand police bullying, physically attacking innocent people, (including me) and then lying under oath about it. I understand cops may have to endure stressful situations and make split second decisions, but that’s still no excuse for abusing power.

  14. 3L120

    Retired LAPD 20+ years ago. These problems arise because the brass, specifically Chief Beck, are more interested in keeping their position than backing their officers.

  15. L Riendeau

    It appears to me showing cowardice is the current paradigm for law enforcement policy and procedures. What was once characterized as the worst thing an officer could be accused of is apparently now the model for modern law enforcement policy.

    Dispatch: beat 42 an aggravated robbery in progress, suspect is armed with handgun” Unit 19D53 I have suspect in view, I will remain in my unit for other units. I don’t want to agitate the suspect and risk having to use deadly force.

    • Nettie

      I’m impressed by your writing. Are you a professional or just very kneobwdgealle?

  16. Daniel OKelly

    People who have never had to use force, should make policy for those who do,… just like those who have never breathed underwater should make policy for those who do.

  17. Lawrence Rupp

    These constant changing values of Law Enforcement are corralled by this Obama Administration of gang related concepts that encourage fighting law enforce back until the give their lives and health as a pyre for the justification of bondage. Whats the sense? What ever law enforcement does will ultimately be weighed by the jury that hears why an officer took a life, why he or she struck out in defense of their own beings. The only way for this parade of gang related cry’s for help is that the United States needs to have someone not influenced with political aspirations of compassion, when the assailant’s gun falls from their hands and is no longer a threat. Pure conjecture and folly when the officer is bound hand and foot with the restrictive bonds that should signify he/she was hired as a new age monitor not a policeman and should he or she get to the radio quickly it will be viewed an unfair and assaultive because the notice of wrong doing was given out so fast it is now viewed as unfair and therefore the lawyer bandits will argue the police are using unfair implements capturing their client that wasn’t breast fed nor had an opportunity to study because the gunfire outside his home caused him/her to hide in the bedroom closet and maybe even under the bed. These calls of new laws are but a gauge of the limited value of those who are making these decisions to bark out laws that really they know nothing about and have never been in a life threatening position. If Sheriff Clarke of Madison County , Wisconsin is given a perfect job of his skill set liken to the Congress Trey Gowdy’s bulldog approach of corrupted officials, Sheriff Clarke can set a national model of Police reform and training for all cities and counties within the United States and set into approved, seasoned trained combat orientated martial artists then the arguments can and should be set aside because these postulation cannot be crafted in a college classroom environment because of the Bill Ayers of today teach in those same Universities with disgust for those whom know who they are and if arguably questioned in their platform of an appearance of impropriety should fall on deaf ears. I wrote my autobiography called “The Duck Theory” available on Amazon.Com and that book will place you the reader into my shoes of of my decision making process and many times with no aid nor help. But when it came time to face the jury and in a controlled environment it was easy to spill my observation onto paper and then into the ears the jury and they all recognized which side I was on and gave into their limited knowledge and accepted my versions as truthful and honest. I pray Sheriff Clarke will be offered a position of national good and right the ship of damning law enforcement for the ails of criminal progress. When & if Donald Trump, the Presidential Candidate from the Borough of Queens, New York, is visualized as the very one who has set the tone of these United States that has been on the wrong track of downplaying police performance as brash and racist, well that will change and go back to the era I’m from. If you spit into my face or pee down my leg and tell me its raining then you are dropped like a rock, like you should, handcuffed and dragged if necessary to jail.

  18. flyguy

    The Major seems to have most of the issue covered dealing with this use of force. If you were to look at the simple everyday type of contact, call it a social contact or whatever, that put Off. Wilson in the position he found himself with Michael Brown you can ask yourself what did he do wrong? NOTHING. It was an example of any of the incidents involving a police officer using force. If the suspect just did what the TRAINED officer told them to do there wouldn’t be the use of force. When did it become okay to disregard or ignore what an officer tells you to do? Take ANY of the recent uses of force and you can see how just following commands of an officer would make it a “non-event”. Doesn’t it seem strange that there isn’t some major investigation being done regarding the DOJ itself? Look at all of the incidents that they have been involved in and yet there isn’t anything being done. So, not sure just exactly what this “PERF” is all about, other than the usual command staff being swayed by the political correctness on issues instead of explaining to the public to just do what the officers ask and then, if they feel picked on or whatever, deal with their complaints.

  19. Tom Conners

    I was sitting in my patrol vehicle the night the riots started in Ferguson. Finally dawned on me that my life was not worth risking any longer when you did not have the support of those you we protecting. Then you had to listen to all the race baiting to include the President and the Attorney General. Decided it was time to go and retired a few months later. I am not sure who is going to go into law enforcement. More importantly who is going to stay more than a few years after they see how bad it has become? The leadership is sitting behind a desk far removed from danger. The NAACP and the ACLU are only looking to rabble rouse to fill their own coffers. If they were so concerned they would be in these communities preventing these incidents. That however does not get headlines. We are, in many cases, dealing with people who have no respect for society, the law or for themselves. Every thug seems to have a gun. You may have make a split second decision that will impact the rest of your life. Is it worth it? I don’t believe so anymore. Take me out coach.

  20. Carlos Solano

    Outstanding point made by Major Yates to remind the leadership in Law enforcement agencies across the Unites States to not give in to the “Politics” or we will repeat the fatal encounters of the past where cops and citizens were needlessly killed all for the sake of not hurting the feelings of criminals or those who would spit on our laws so they could do what they want without consequence.

    • Jock

      Never would have thunk I would find this so innedpissable.

  21. Claude Werner aka The Tactical Professor

    I empathize with Major Yates’ sentiments. However, in saying that this is “changing the rules without the courts,” he seems to have ignored Hayes v. County of San Diego, a California Supreme Court decision in 2014 that LAPD must take into account. LA County has already made changes to its UOF policy as a result.

    “As restated by the court, the question presented in Hayes was: ‘Whether under California negligence law, liability can arise from tactical conduct and decisions employed by law enforcement preceding the use of deadly force.’ ” The Court’s answer was ‘yes.’

    • Art Tom

      LAPD has already made changes regarding Hayes in their UOF policy and the way force is adjudicated. The changes that Major Yates is talking about are way beyond pre-incident tactical conduct. The changes approved today by the BOPC will require officers attempt deescalation techniques before using deadly force. That’s far beyond what Hayes talked about.

  22. Elihu

    Great article. There is one other problem I see arising with law enforcement officers. With all the anti-cop sentiment out there, many good and honest people will shy away from the job because—let’s face it—who wants to risk losing everything (job, family, life) simply because they did what they were trained to do? Once there is a lack of strong moral people doing the job, it will be filled by corruptible individuals and our police force will be no better than Mexico’s.

    • Adiana

      All of these articles have saved me a lot of hehcsdaea.

  23. grets007

    If such policies are in place, the shooting is within policy , but the the administrative body finds that some step was missed, the gate for civil suits was just swung wide open. It could occur in virtually every shooting

    • Allayna

      Your post has moved the debate fodrwra. Thanks for sharing!

  24. gary pumphrey

    Major Yates knows what he is talking about. A lot of caveats for both the officer and the public. We (LEO’s) can’t continue to bend for every politically motivated policy. However, the officer must always keep in mind that the current U.S. administration (nor some of your own politically aspiring administrators) does not have your back. By all means use the necessary force to quell the problems; do not let yourself or the public be injured or killed because of ill advised political pressure. Train for all possible scenarios when possible and have liability insurance at hand at all times. Stay safe out there officers!

    • Xadrian

      I found just what I was needed, and it was engtetaininr!

  25. David Davis

    Law enforcement should never give in to the Thugs and criminals what we need is real leadership in the White House that should take care of most of the problems

  26. seamonki

    Maybe a good thing would to have patrol counselors and send them..once they are done Talking to the bad guys about how misunderstood they are the police can then be dispatched to clean up the blood. We want cops to protect us the innocent not “talk” to the crooks. Lets all get real and get back to good policing.

  27. Sean

    Good job major Yates. LE has some tough times ahead.

  28. Al Arsenault

    How does gun requalification sort out all the use of force problems? The officers on the front line need more arrest and control tactics training!

    • Tyanne

      It’s always a relief when someone with obvious expretise answers. Thanks!

  29. Connie Moore

    Take those officials on a “training” session, let them experience ONE TIME what it’s like to walk into the unknown and have just a split second to decide. Morons always sitting safe and sound want to dictate what someone else should do

  30. Jim Howard


  31. Janai

    Hey, sublte must be your middle name. Great post!


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