LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles police officers have been left “bewildered” by the recent targeting of their colleagues in other cities — including the attack in Baton Rouge that killed three police officers July 17 — but they remain “motivated” to hit the streets daily to protect the public, Police Chief Charlie Beck said this week.
“I spent a lot of time in the last few days with my patrol force,” Beck said during a downtown news conference July 18. “I find them to be, as we all are, a little bit bewildered by what’s going on around the nation, and how that possibly could be anybody’s idea of a solution for the issues at hand.”
But he also found the officers are “still motivated, still believing in service, still believing in doing the right thing, and I think they will continue to do that,” Beck said.
The chief said there are no known specific threats against police officers in Los Angeles, other than general threats that may inspire a copycat incident here.
Beck also touched on the psychological toll of the recent events on himself and other officers. He said he was “stunned” by the shootings in Baton Rouge and found the events to be “not only professionally vexing, but emotionally taxing.”
“To see that happen again — to see the absolutely senseless act against men and women who are trying desperately to keep a community safe — is very distressing,” he said.
Beck said he would welcome more support for police officers, saying it is “something that police officers deserve, and I think they earn everyday.”
Even though officers may be prepared to do their jobs, “each time they walk out the door, they see the faces of their families, and their families are very concerned,” Beck said.
“They’re very concerned about their loved ones, even though my police officers may feel that they are well supported and well trained and well equipped and can handle whatever comes in front of them, you know, your family is worried about you,” he said.
Beck urged greater compassion from both sides, saying “this is a time for empathy.”
“I think this is a time to understand that everybody has legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, but you don’t address those things through violence,” he said. “Violence doesn’t solve issues of violence.”
The statements came a day after Los Angeles Police Department officials stepped up resources to support officers following the shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that left three officers dead and three others wounded.
The additional precautions include doubling air assets, assigning officers from the elite Metropolitan Division to back up responding patrol officers and adding additional people to help screen 911 calls to ensure “we’re not responding to false calls to lure officers to an ambush,” Beck said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Beck and other public officials July 17 to mourn the three officers killed and to denounce the violent acts.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the three Baton Rouge officers who were killed this morning. … This violence against police officers undermines our democracy. Our collective voice must rise up to condemn this latest shooting in what is unfortunately becoming a horrifying trend,” Garcetti said.
The shooting came less than two weeks after officers were apparently targeted and killed in Dallas by a gunman during what was an otherwise peaceful protest by activists against a string of questionable shootings against black men by police officers.
In Washington, President Barack Obama vehemently condemned the attack on police by a gunman identified by law enforcement as 29-year-old Gavin Long. Long, a former Marine, was killed in the shootout with police.
“For the second time in two weeks, police officers who put their lives on the line for ours every day were doing their job when they were killed in a cowardly and reprehensible assault. These are attacks on public servants, on the rule of law, and on civilized society and they have to stop,” Obama said.
“We may not yet know the motives for this attack, but to be clear,” Obama continued. “There is no justification for violence against law enforcement. None. These attacks are the work of cowards, who speak for no one. They right no wrongs. They advance no causes.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, issued a statement calling for “the civic leaders of our nation to replace platitudes and rhetorical support for law enforcement with action.”
“Our police officers deserve your strongest support and undivided attention,” the statement said. “Now that 10 law enforcement officers have been murdered in 10 days, what will you do to keep our communities safe?”
The statement also criticized what it described as “anti-police activists,” a thinly veiled reference to groups like Black Lives Matter.
“To the anti police activists, whose apparent sole focus is to lay blame for all the ills of society on those who wear a law enforcement uniform, save your statement of ‘condolence’ to the families of these slain officers unless it is accompanied by the same level of outrage and contempt exhibited after recent officer-involved shootings,” the league’s statement said. “Anything less would be hypocritical.
“In just over one week’s time, this nation has seen its law enforcement officers targeted, hunted and murdered again. We cannot keep our neighborhoods safe if the men and women we ask to protect our communities face ambush around any potential street corner. These officers paid the ultimate sacrifice for simply doing their job.”