[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]
The Los Angeles Times reports today on an effort to institute an award within the Los Angeles Police Department that would, like the military’s Purple Heart, recognize officers who suffer a severe traumatic injury in the line of duty. Readers may find this to be little cause for debate, and indeed such awards are already given by the police departments in Chicago, Denver, and several other cities. The New York Police Department started handing out it’s Purple Shield award in 1995, when LAPD chief William Bratton was the city’s police commissioner.
I wish I could say I was surprised by this, but there are those within city government who are concerned about the financial costs such an award would incur. The Times quotes an internal LAPD document prepared when this idea was put forth and rejected on a previous occasion. “An award for injuries sustained in the line of duty,” says the report, “serves little or no useful purpose.” Apparently, there are those who consider an expression of gratitude for a great sacrifice to be of “no useful purpose.” Another reason given for the earlier rejection was that highlighting officers’ injuries and deaths might have a negative effect on recruiting.
One might suggest that such staggering ignorance among city officials has a more deleterious effect on police recruiting than does recognizing an officer who takes a bullet on behalf of the people he serves. But hey, I’m just a cop. What do I know?
And speaking of ignorance, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the labor union for rank-and-file officers, has filed a lawsuit in an effort to protect its members from one type of ignorant decision made by command officers. In previous posts (here, here, and here), I discussed the harebrained directive by an LAPD deputy chief to send officers into a fracas without their helmets and face shields. The incident took place on January 10 at the West L.A. Federal Building, where pro-Palestinian demonstrators squared off with police officers and sheriff’s deputies. A helmetless LAPD officer was struck on the head with a sign and had to be treated at an emergency room. The lawsuit seeks to force the LAPD to follow its own written policies and not send officers into hostile crowds without their safety equipment.
It’s a pity the Protective League had to resort to a lawsuit to achieve these ends, but no one familiar with how things work in the LAPD should be surprised.