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LAPD Plan to Place Active-Duty Officers on Film Shoots Pits Productions vs. Residents

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, March 30, 2009, at 01:39PM
film cop_3.jpg Ed Fuentes

An officer in LAPD uniform works the shoot for ABC pilot "Limelight" outside 650 S. Spring on Monday.

On Wednesday afternoon, LAPD will present its plan to place active-duty officers on film shoots, replacing the retired officers that have long served as traffic officers on productions in the City of Los Angeles.

The debate is likely to be heated. The film industry alleges that this change will increase costs and drive filming out of Los Angeles, and production companies are very good at bringing a crowd to meetings. On the other hand, there's no lack of comments here on blogdowntown criticizing the retired officers for a failing to control shoots and behaving improperly toward residents unhappy with a production's behavior.

On the industry side, a petition being circulated under the domain alleges that LAPD's yet-unreleased proposal would double costs and decrease public safety.

The LAPD’s current proposal to effectively eliminate the use of retired LAPD officers, who have been a presence on productions for nearly 50 years, is currently the most disturbing. This proposal will reduce the flexibility of productions to accomplish their work, increase the cost to productions by nearly 100%, eliminate hundreds of retired officers who are familiar with the industry’s methods and operations, decrease public safety and generally be detrimental to production within the City of Los Angeles. LAPD’s alternative proposal, to change the uniform of the retired officers on film unit duty, making them unrecognizable as law enforcement officers, is equally detrimental.

An email circulating the petition quoted an unnamed production manager who praised the retired officers for allowing shoots to "bend the rules" contained in their permits.

The retired guys get it and have been getting it for many years. Also, isn't nice when we can hire our own guys that we trust and who will sometimes allow us to bend the rules when in need? DON'T LET THEM DICTATE WHO WE USE, NOT NOW, NOT EVER!

The experience many Downtowners have had with the retired officers has been less positive. In the comments on a September story about this upcoming proposal, "Downtown Owner" wrote:

I have been shoved off a sidewalk into the street by one of [the retired officers] for simply asking to speak to a production manager about the illegal use of a bull horn by a director next to my condo building. Countless downtown residents have been blocked from legal access to the sidewalks and streets.

I have watched rent-a-cops sit on their lazy asses, eating crew catering and talking on their cell phones while productions violate the law, park their production vehicles in the middle of the street, blast audio playback while a rap star's posse stands on the sidewalk lighting up joints and getting high.

Other comments echo similar complaints about the retired officers, that they do little to enforce permit conditions and are unresponsive to community complaints.

At an October hearing on the new filming contract RFP, Lieutenant Ray Garvin expressed LAPD's opinion on the shoot situation. "It's the department's position that the oversight at film locations is grossly inadequate," he said.

While much of the current discussion on runaway filming has been driven by ABC's "Ugly Betty" moving production to New York City, that situation can't quite be brought up in this argument. New York City requires active duty officers on all its shoots.

Wednesday's presentation will take place at a special meeting of the Council's Public Works committee. The proposal is the only item on the agenda.


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