The purpose of law enforcement is to keep the peace, plus prevent and stop crime. It’s a mission of public safety. Where does that mission stand when it comes to the First Amendment right to protest peacefully?
Robert Harris, an LAPD officer and a director on the Board of the Los Angeles Protective League, says it’s the duty of the police to ensure demonstrators can peacefully protest.
He explains, “Unfortunately what you have are opportunistic individuals, criminal individuals, that come in and hijack those peaceful protests and start doing things like launching projectiles at our officers: bricks, frozen water bottles, bottles filled with urine and feces. The destruction of property begins to happen. Once those things start to happen, it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to try and control that, so it doesn’t start to spread.”
Harris says the Protective League investigates complaints against officers who might be stepping out of line. He says everyone is entitled to due process.
Harris does not support the People’s Budget, which calls for reduced police funding: “Those dollars they want cut from the budget have real impacts on public safety. It means longer response times, less officers on the streets. … It means the less ability to do things our community and elected officials have asked for.”
Harris also doesn’t support the call from LA City leadership to cut LAPD funding, calling it a “political stunt show.”
“You approved that budget before the Mr. [George] Floyd incident. Are you telling me your principles and values were wrong then, and now you want to try to have political cover for that and absolve yourself of the responsibility of the budget that you made, and then lay that blame at the feet of the LAPD?” Harris says. “That’s shameful. It’s disgusting. It’s not how you conduct yourself as a leader.”