The Los Angeles Police Department is promising changes in the way it relates to the community, it announced just weeks after saying it would add more officers to South Los Angeles streets.
About 40 community members were present to hear Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck discuss the relationship between the city’s police and the community. The discussion, in the format of a breakfast, was held at the California African American Museum this past Friday.
“Everybody has a responsibility to make this a safer place to live,” Beck said, “a place our young people and all of us can go to have a sense of community.”
These types of forums began in 1999 to “[involve] minority communities in time-sensitive issues,” according to the forum’s website. On that Friday, the forum was discussion-based and then audience members asked questions to LAPD’s top man. The LAPD has evolved in its relationship to the South LA community. More efforts are being made to not just police the community, but work as partners with it.
Deputy chief William Scott, who spoke before Beck, used his time at the podium to discuss the latest restructuring of the LAPD.
“We’re trying to shift the minds of our officers to think of programs like the juvenile intervention program as crime control,” Scott said. “[We’re] getting away from crime control as locking people up.”
Scott described changing cycles of violence and crime in what he hailed as “a new LAPD” that holds an emphasis on the importance of “community competence.” He said the force is requiring diversity training that is shifting toward a more community-centered approach.
“What is our job? To serve,” Scott told the forum of about 40 attendees,
When Beck spoke he focused on instilling sensitivity into the LAPD when its officers interact with people in south LA.
“I try to put the old cop’s mind into the new cop’s body,” Beck said,
In response to questions of how community policing could be improved in LA, Beck highlighted the LAPD’s program, where officers, who are selected based on their exceptional abilities for working with the community, are stationed long-term in areas with a high level of violent crime.
Last month, South LA experienced the deadliest August it had seen in eight years, according to the Los Angeles Times. In response, Beck dispatched more officers to the area.
Beck said the current levels of police presence and potential increases in the number of officers in the community will be maintained, though officers will be increasingly versed in how to better interact with neighborhoods.
“There’s a setback every time there’s a negative engagement and we have to go through this all over again,” Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, the forum’s managing director, told Intersections. “Relations will improve when the art of policing improves.”
Members in the audience noted that to them there were areas in South LA that were “over-policed,” suggesting that the number of police in those areas is excessive, when compared with other areas.
“The people have a greater fear of police than police have of the people,” Samad assessed.
“[LAPD is there] to make the community better, not to make arrests or take police action,” Beck said. “This really is the future of community policing.”
He urged the audience to try to understand officers’ points of view as he has in many other instances.
“I firmly believe that this is where we can do the most good, where we can build the most relationships,” Beck said. “I’m willing to put the best people I have here so they can make a difference.”