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LAPD, Councilmembers Clash on Uniforms for Film Officers

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, July 27, 2009, at 04:24PM
film cop_3.jpg Ed Fuentes

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

A plan to strip retired police officers of the right to wear their LAPD uniforms while working on film shoots met with severe criticism from several members of the Los Angeles City Council this morning.

New Councilman Paul Koretz, chair of the Public Safety committee, called the proposal a "lose-lose at every level for the city." He said it would exacerbate runaway production and result in lost revenue.

The plan by LAPD Chief William Bratton would replace the uniforms that retired officers currently wear with a different one featuring a white shirt and reflective vest.

Presenting the plan this morning in response to a motion by Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Greig Smith, Assistant LAPD Chief Jim McDonnell told the Public Safety committee this morning that the department has "no interest in eliminating the ability of retired officers to work film locations," but simply wants to ensure that when the public sees someone wearing an LAPD uniform, that person is in fact an LAPD officer.

Smith did not buy that the plan was not about replacing the retired officers with those on active duty. "I can hire a guy in uniform or a guy not in uniform, what am I going to do?," he asked rhetorically.

The retired officers have been a point of complaint in comments on blogdowntown. Commenters have written about inaction in the case of permit violations and unfriendly behavior toward residents.

A provision inserted into the city's Municipal Code in the 1980s allows the retired officers to wear the LAPD uniform while working at film shoots, but only at the discretion of the Chief of Police. Bratton's plan, set to go into effect on September 20, does not require approval by the Board of Police Commissioners or the City Council.

Those working in the film industry decried the proposed change during public comment, saying that the officers would lose their authority if unable to wear the official LAPD uniform and that filming would be driven from Los Angeles.

Assistant City Attorney Carlos de la Guerra advised the committee that the city's current practice may not even be legal. He said that it may be against California Penal Code Section 538D to allow the officers to wear the LAPD uniform when they only have traffic- and crowd-control duties and are not peace officers.


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