LAPD Chief Moore Talks To Us About Police Shootings, Scooters And That Controversial Retirement Program

LAPD Chief Michel Moore stands for a portrait at KPCC in Pasadena, California on Wednesday August 15, 2018. (Photo by Signe Larsen/LAist)

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore was in his new role as the city's top cop for less than a month when a shootout and standoff at the Trader Joe's in Silver Lake claimed the life of an innocent civilian, who was fatally shot by an officer.

Ten days later, Moore stood before the press again to give details and release video of another fatal police shooting of an innocent civilian — this one in June, and this time a woman who was being held hostage by a man with a knife. The victim's adult children are now suing the LAPD and the city.

Then, this past weekend, the Los Angeles Times reported that Moore had received $1.27 million thanks to a controversial retirement program in which he retired from the LAPD, then was rehired in his former role before being named the new chief a few months later.

The retire-but-not-really move, which Moore told the Times was an idea by former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti, has raised concern among government watchdogs.

On Wednesday, Moore sat down with AirTalk's Larry Mantle to discuss the recent shootings and resulting policy changes, the controversy over the police retirement program and more.

Here is some of their conversation, edited for clarity (you can listen to the full interview here).

ON THE RECENT POLICE SHOOTINGS IN VAN NUYS AND SILVER LAKE

Moore:

A complete investigation is still months out. I have not made a determination on the actions of [the officers in] either one of those instances. We did go out last week and make announcements relative to changes in our training, and that was taken in part because of things that I saw, particularly in the Van Nuys incident, but also in looking at our use of force — particularly deadly force — in 2017, and the frequency in which the number of officers seemingly increased relying on deadly force as a force option, but also in the impact that our less-lethal weapons — our bean bag shotguns and Tazers — were having in order to overcome the resistance or to gain control of the circumstance.

I encourage the public to go online to LAPDonline.org, where we are now posting videos within 45 days of critical incidences of officer-involved shootings with what we have and what we know (at the time).

Mantle: I want to talk about this new policy that instead of 72 hours for an officer involved in an injurious or fatal shooting being off the job, that being extended to a 14-day period. What's the necessity of that particularly if you've got a shooting where the injury is minor?

Moore:

The use of deadly force by an officer is the most critical decision that an officer can make, and in such an incident, the dynamics — not just once they make that decision but the outcome — has an absolute immediate effect on an officer and can be a lasting effect over the course of their career.

It's a traumatic event and it's one that for decades we have involved our psychologist to sit down and debrief officers to normalize, if you will, their emotions and processing of such a traumatic event, and monitor them to see how they are coping. Historically that period or the initial session [with the psychologist] has occurred usually within two to three days after the event, allowing the officer a few sleep cycles to get some rest in order to collect their thoughts.

What we looked at in the last couple of years is whether that decision or session is sufficient. And when we came back after looking at the field of study with agencies across the country — talking to academia as well as the psychology field — we've determined that we need to have more sessions. Not just sessions that the officer was always allowed to ask for and engage in, but we need to check in with that officer months after the event to see how they're doing.

In that process also was this 72-hour notion that an officer would be pulled off the field and would not be allowed to work the field because they've been just exposed to this traumatic event. We want to give a little time and distance from that, and what we found was that, why not extend that to a longer period of time to allow the officer more time to recover and to collect themselves. [We want to] give them the assurance that they would not be thrusted back in a situation where they would again be called on to make a similar life or death decision with only moments of consideration.

ON ENFORCING RULES FOR SCOOTER RIDERS

Moore:

It may be that there are portions of Los Angeles where that form of transportation is more viable. There is existing state law in regards to the conduct of individuals on those scooters. We're involved in an outreach and education campaign reminding the people who operate those scooters about the laws and the dangers that they represent not only to the operator, but to pedestrians and motorists.

I'm very concerned — because this is one of those emerging technologies — that as it comes out, the rest of the community is not well prepared.

I was down in the Venice Beach area just last week. Tourists, people who are coming from outside the region, see them and think "I can use these and I can use them on the boardwalk" when in fact they can't. We're going to seek compliance and we're going to achieve it, but not just with heavy-handed enforcement. We want to have a balancing act of informing the public to act responsively. If [riders] act responsibly on roadways, with helmets, obeying the traffic laws, I think they can be a safe and efficient means of moving about this city.

Mantle: One of the things we've heard from both supporters and opponents of the scooters is about a lack of enforcement. They said there are laws people are just flagrantly flouting because they don't know or they don't care and that there's really no one there to rein in on that behavior. At some point does this switch from education to an enforcement citation law?

Moore:

I know that our men and women are out there both educating and, when appropriate, taking enforcement action including the issuing of a citation.

ON THE DROP PROGRAM AND MOORE'S BIG PAYDAY

Mantle: There was a very nice payout for you under the [Deferred Retirement Option Plan]. What do you think needs to be changed in DROP?

Moore:

Our ability to retain a senior officer and having them continue versus otherwise leave the force is something I've experienced — and we have hundreds of personnel in our department who could leave tomorrow. But with the presence of DROP they're incentivized to stay, and that helps me with retention and it helps me keep staffing at the levels that I need for the policing in Los Angeles.

But it needs to be cost neutral and the public needs to have faith and confidence that it is not being abused. The cost neutrality is something that is being looked at yet again. Are the officers' pensions — that would otherwise go to the officer — funding this account, or is the public having to reach into its pocket more?

Secondly, is it being abused? In this instance I am particularly interested, as Chief Beck was and I know as our city leaders are. We've had some instances where we've had officers who we've meant to maintain by DROP have entered into the program and then suffered an injury where they have been absent on the job for an extended period of time — months or years. So in effect, the desire of why DROP was initiated hasn't been accomplished. We need to change that, because it undermines the confidence in the system and jeopardizes my ability to have an important tool to retain employees that keep the service levels in Los Angeles high.

Mantle: Could you legally, for any of the officers who leave because of injury, remove that as part of the five-year time credited toward their retirement payment?

Moore:

That is what the question is, and I believe that's what our elected officials in City Hall are working through now, with rep of our Los Angeles Police Protective League as well as our Command Officers Association. Officially, when you go into DROP, you retire. You no longer have all the benefits of an active employee and you have a date certain that you can only stay until, then you must leave. And during that period of time when you would otherwise receive your pension check, it's put into a separate account that has to be cost neutral to the city. Many of these employees continue to actually pay into the retirement program during that time. The challenge with this is that if we're going to now do a timeout — an officer has left because of a knee injury or suffered a back injury and now they can no longer come to work — should they be allowed to collect that DROP payment in addition to their normal salary?

I believe we have some very sharp minds and people that recognize the need to build confidence in this program that are going at it full bore. And I believe that senior representatives of the police league and our labor units recognize the need for this as well.

Mantle: If you can't legally exclude those periods of injury, can you really keep the DROP program going given the cost?

Moore:

I think that you have a very valid point. The vast majority of people in DROP — on the police side — are giving us what we asked for, which is an extended amount of their time, and they're doing it in a manner that doesn't cost the city any additional funds and allows me the benefit of not having to retrain and replace them. If we can't accomplish that because people are able to game the system, then I understand your point.

AirTalk's Bethany Wang contributed to this story.


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