LAPD and Occupy L.A. – One Size Does NOT Fit All

So, it’s been a few days since the City of Los Angeles decided to take back the park outside of City Hall from the Occupy L.A. protesters. 

As a former LAPD officer, watching on TV as the operation unfolded, I must say it’s essential to commend the LAPD for the well thought out plan that appeared to be executed with the utmost of precision. The world was watching (as usual) to see how the LAPD was going to handle the Occupy LA situation.  The media commented over and over again how the city and the LAPD didn’t want a repeat of the May Day ‘incident.’  And to that end, the procedure was a huge success.  However…

It’s important to remember that these protesters were very well behaved and not a typical large crowd that law enforcement usually encounters.  Additionally, the city and the LAPD had bent over backwards to cater to the group…ignoring the fact people were blatantly smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol in public, violating the Health and Safety codes, to say nothing of the intentional damage (vandalism) caused to the grass, irrigation systems etc.  Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa along with a couple of L.A. City Councilmen even passed out rain ponchos to the protesters in the early days.

While I’m glad the whole thing turned out peacefully – what kind of a price did the citizens of Los Angeles pay – I mean literally.  I’ve heard the number $400,000.00.  I don’t think that amount would cover the resources used at the event.  In fact, at least one City Councilman, Mitch Englander, doesn’t think so either, and had motioned for a report of all of the costs the City of Los Angeles incurred  because of the Occupy L.A. protest encampment.

But it’s not just the monetary aspect of the protester removal that I’m worried about.  Yes, the LAPD set a standard that some other police agencies weren’t able to achieve.  But what concerns me is that now the general public will expect a similar result for all types of crowd control issues.  But crowd control isn’t ‘one size fits all.’

Whether society likes it or not, police work is, at times, out of necessity an uncompromising entity.  Law enforcement officers are paid to enforce the laws and protect the well-being and peace of the community.  Sometimes that job is not fun and often it isn’t very pretty. 

So, while the city leaders and the LAPD can bask in a job well done, I say to everyone:  Don’t expect that every protest and police action will be handled with so many resources, with such a strategic plan, and with the officers ‘wearing kid gloves,’ because the true nature of police work is not usually so refined or gracious…and often people’s lives depend upon that fact.

 Until next time,