The Los Angeles Police Department has recently announced they will audit and possibly revise how they train their officers to use deadly force after a sharp increase in shootings by officers last year.
Chief Michel Moore told the civilian Police Commission that the department is taking a “deep dive” into its training program to see whether the training reflects existing department policies on the use of force.
The chief noted that the policies have gotten stricter in the last few years and require officers to have “reverence for human life,” yet 2021 marked a significant increase in police-on-civilian violence for the department.
According to police data obtained by the Los Angeles Times, LAPD officers discharged their weapons at an individual — a form of deadly force — 37 times last year and killed 18 people. For comparison, there were 27 shootings with only seven fatalities in 2020.
Of particular importance is that only 22 of the 37 people shot the past year wielded weapons such as knives or blunt objects, and none possessed a firearm.
The commission was most concerned about a shooting that occurred two days before Christmas, where an innocent 14-year-old was caught in the crossfire between LAPD officers and 24-year-old Daniel Lopez in North Hollywood.
Lopez was reported to have been assaulting people with a bike lock before police opened fire at him. The young girl, Valentina Peralta, and the suspect were killed in the exchange.
The tragedy has led to activists demanding for changes in LAPD training to raise the threshold for using deadly force, especially in cases where someone is not wielding a firearm and appears to be in a mental health crisis.
During the meeting, LAPD officials explained that police responding to the scene believed Lopez was an active shooter based on information they obtained from witnesses, and therefore officers adjusted their actions to be more aggressive.
Following active-shooter protocols, officers are trained to be aware of their surroundings and of possible civilians in the area, especially when they are using high-power rifles that can shoot through walls. They are also trained to listen for gunfire and, if they don’t hear any, to reassess the situation.
Former federal prosecutor and Commissioner Eileen Decker asked Moore for more specifics about what the training audit will entail and suggested that stronger language be used in department policies to stress that deadly force be used only as a last resort.
In response, Moore said the review would evaluate whether current training protocols adequately address requirements to employ de-escalation techniques, as well as other techniques to create time and space between officers and suspects or fulfill requirements to use less-lethal weapons such as foam rounds whenever possible.
In addition, the L.A. Police Chief said that the training will be reassessed to determine whether officers can “accurately interpret” whether they are in “imminent peril” before resorting to deadly force.
According to Moore, the past year represented a “backslide” compared to the record low number of shootings achieved in 2019.