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LAPD Weapons: 'This Is L.A., Not the Middle East"

March 08, 1997

In the wake of the shootout in which two bank robbers used automatic weapons and "cop killer" armor-piercing bullets against police who were initially armed only with 9mm handguns, the Los Angeles Police Commission is considering a a pilot program to increase the power of weapons used by the LAPD. One likely plan would put automatic weapons in supervisors' vehicles and give patrol officers more powerful handguns.

The LAPD has been widely praised for its actions in bringing the North Hollywood violence to an end, but there is ambivalence about adding to the level of armament on city streets. JIM BLAIR spoke with business owners, child development workers and others about the proposal.

FRED ALI

Executive director, Covenant House youth agency, Los Angeles

We work with a couple of hundred young people either in our residential program or on the streets everyday here in Los Angeles. These kids are exposed on the street daily to a variety of weapons. Their world has become very, very unsafe because there are so many people out there carrying guns and other weapons. It's a cycle of violence that just seems to perpetuate itself.

We have to do our best to get these guns out of the hands of people in the street.

PAUL JACOBS

President, Professional Stationers, Inc., North Hollywood

We are about three blocks away from the scene of the robbery. Police did a tremendous job. The way they controlled it and the fact that there was nobdy killed except the two robbers--I think the police acted very, very well.

Still, my personal opinion is that they should not have greater firepower because the arms race on the street is just going to escalate. As the police have stronger weapons, then the criminals will try to get more, stronger weapons.

I think it should be a federal regulation if possible. If not it should be banned in the state. I don't think local governments would have the authority.

RAMON MUNIZ

Counselor, Cal State Northridge

I am a community activist in Cypress Park. I work on a variety of issues from basic things like street lights to voter registration, education and assisting with citizenship.

To arm the entire police department with automatic weapons is escalating to a military state. If anything, we need to remember that North Hollywood was an extreme and very rare incident. To an extent perhaps [the police] do need more firepower to protect themselves if more of these type of incidents come up - which they probably will. But it should be limited [perhaps to] supervisory personnel. But to arm everybody with an AK-47? This is L.A., not somewhere in the Middle East.

The community and the police department are on the same side, but given past experience that some communities have had with law enforcement it's almost an adversary relationship. There has to be greater acceptance of each other.

LINDA GUTHRIE

Teacher, Virgil Middle School, Los Angeles

One of the things I think is very unfortunate is that for most students, school is the safest place they can be; because, for our students who live in the Rampart Division of LAPD, coming to school and even being at home - with things like drive-bys and random shootings - is a dangerous propostion. For most the security of the school campus is the only time when they feel they are not in a life and death situation.

[But giving the police greater firepower] is moving in the wrong direction. We want the children to be able to look at police officers as people who are able to resolve conflicts without having to go to extreme measures.

I'm also a parent and I have three children. When we were coming home the other night, we saw evidence of a shootout on Figueroa Street. Children are receiving the message that this is a daily occurence and they don't like it.

SUSAN BURLANDO

Principal, Monte Vista Children's Center, Los Angeles

You can't fight fire with fire and you can't shoot everybody in the world.

We work with children that are 2, 3, and 4 years old. What I feel is most important right now is education, group meetings, parent training--to help them know what to do with their children in early childhood so that way they can go through life and handle problems without the need of a gun. On television I even witnessed parents taking their 3-and 4-year-old children to the scene in North Hollywood [afterwards] and walking around looking for all the bullet holes.

People need to know that this is not OK.

BUD MOORE

Coin shop owner in Rialto, where police are already armed with automatic weapons

I am thrilled to death to know that our police, who have already been issued automatic weapons, are going to be competitive with the people that are going to be in here trying to hold me up.

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