After a sharp increase in police shootings in 2021 – including those of suspects who did not have weapons – the Los Angeles Police Department will review and revise how it trains officers in the use of lethal force, officials said Tuesday.
Chief Michel Moore said at a meeting of the Civilian Police Commission that the LAPD is taking a “deep dive” into its training program to assess whether it correctly outlines existing departmental policies, which have become stricter in recent years, and makes it clear to officers ” the reverence for human life ”required of them.
LAPD officers opened fire 37 times in 2021, killing 18 people – partly driven by a cluster of shootings in the final weeks of the year. That compares with 27 LAPD shootings, seven of them fatal, in 2020, and 26 shootings, 12 of them fatal, in 2019.
Of the 37 people shot last year, 22 had weapons such as knives or blunt objects, but did not have firearms.
Among them was Daniel Elena Lopez, a 24-year-old who was seen assaulting customers with a bicycle lock at a store in North Hollywood Burlington two days before Christmas. Officers rushed in, and one opened fire with a rifle – killing Elena Lopez, but also killing 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta, who was hiding with her mother in an adjoining locker room.
This shooting brought international condemnation and scrutiny of the LAPD’s tactics in such scenarios, adding a constant drumming of criticism from local activists and loved ones to others who have been killed or injured by the police in recent years.
It also raised questions about the department’s policies for increasingly widespread “active shooter” situations, and how officers responding to such chaotic and potentially deadly scenes are expected to continue.
While Elena did not have a firearm, at least one 911 caller reported that he had and that shots had been fired at the store. The officers were informed of this review, and of the fact that there were other customers sheltering in place in the store before entering. They seemed to approach the situation as if there was an active shooter in the store, despite not hearing shots.
During Tuesday’s meeting, LAPD officials led commissioners through existing training protocols for active shooter scenarios – outlining how officers are supposed to be aware of their surroundings and what may be behind a target, especially when using high-power rifles. can pierce walls. They are also supposed to listen for shots and re-evaluate the situation if they do not hear anything, officials said.
After Moore declared his commitment to undergo all training on the use of lethal force, Commissioner Eileen Decker – a former federal prosecutor – asked for details.
Decker asked whether the audit would consider whether training matches policy, whether “stronger words or perhaps a different language” is needed to emphasize that lethal force “should be a last resort,” and whether the department’s training adequately teaches officers all the considerations they must make. before opening fire in “crowded, densely populated” places.
Moore said everything would be reviewed.
Moore said the review will consider whether current training adequately addresses existing requirements for officers to use de-escalation techniques; relocate to buy time and create more space between themselves and suspects; and use less deadly weapons, such as foam rounds, whenever possible before opening fire, Moore said.
He said the review will also examine whether officers give themselves and colleagues enough time to use less lethal weapons, and that the effects of these tools can take effect before they resort to direct-fire firing – especially in cases , where suspects do not have firearms. It will consider whether officers in such situations “accurately interpret” the extent to which they or others are in “imminent danger” before opening fire.
Moore said the 2021 increase in shootings marked a sad step back from the lowest level in 30 years in LAPD shootings achieved in 2019, and that it is being taken seriously.
Valentina’s family is the latest to have lost a loved one to the LAPD shooting to condemn the department and question its tactics. Moore said, however, that he had challenged his staff to begin the review prior to the shooting in Burlington, after identifying in advance the increased incidents with officers shooting people who had weapons other than firearms.
The trend is that local activists and families have called out repeatedly in recent years, and one that The Times highlighted in March and again in June – specifically concerns that police are shooting people who have “edged” or blunt objects and appears to be mental crisis.
LAPD data reviewed by The Times at the time showed that about 22% of police shootings between 2015 and 2019 involved suspects allegedly armed with “angular weapons” or “percussion devices.”
In 2021, that figure was almost 60%, police say.