In a manner that appears consistent with the ongoing trends of the Los Angeles Police Department using excessive force on low-income and/or houseless primarily Black residents, LAPD officers shot bean bags, tased, and then wrestled to the ground a wheelchair-bound man at or around 7:30am on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Eye witness, cell phone video footage from the shooting – recently acquired by the Los Angeles Community Action Network – appears to show a standoff (really a “sit-off”) between the man and at least 10 -12 LAPD officers. About 30 seconds into the clip, the unidentified man, who is clearly distressed and shouting at the officers, is shot twice. Then MANY seconds after, officers shoot the man again and gang tackle the man to the ground commencing to tasing him. Despite several requests, the identity of the man, nor his charges, have been released.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest of a similar string of incidents involving escalated use of force on the part of LAPD. And while this shooting thankfully did not result in another dead resident, it is important to note that this is indicative of the type of escalated policing that low-income residents, particularly in gentrifying communities, have been experiencing in recent weeks (and months, in some cases). It also represents the problem with the rhetoric around the emphasis on de-escalation training that the LAPD has been pushing in the media recently. No matter what this man was doing that resulted in a call to the police, at the time of the incident it is clear in video that the man was not an immediate threat. So why was it necessary to shoot him three times with bean bags? Why was it necessary to tase him? Why was it necessary that a horde of officers were needed to violently wrestle down a man in a wheel chair? The man did appear to be upset and was shouting. Would this have been a situation better served by the Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART) versus a gang of officers? How much would de-escalation training matter if there are so many officers on hand for such an incident?
So, why were there so many officers called to the scene? In the past two weeks, LA CAN Community Watch teams have documented law enforcement citing and arresting homeless and low-income individuals in mass. Probation officers, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, LAPD – all have been actively patrolling the streets of Downtown LA (particularly in Skid Row) and aggressively enforcing so-called quality-of-life citations and warrants for these non-violent offenses, like illegally lodging on public property and or sitting/lying on the street. Ironically, this comes just two weeks after community residents demanded that Eric Garcetti veto changes to LA Municipal Codes 56.11 and 63.44, which were passed by City Council under the arguments that they would be used to stop illegal encampments. Low-income and homeless residents argued that these changes were largely unnecessary (as existing laws could be enforced to stop illegal encampments) and that these would just be used to further criminalize and punish residents simply for being poor. And we see that now.
The bottom line is this: No amount of training will help when the problem has to do with the oversaturation of police and a seemingly limitless budget to put officers on the street and enforce largely non-violent crimes. This is a culture and tradition of abuse, force and extermination of
“undesirable” people fully supported by the Mayor Garcetti, Chief Charlie Beck, and the Los Angeles City Council. We say HOUSING FOR EVERY Angeleno and they say ENFORCEMENT, DEATH and EXCUSES.