Mixer: Police go on the defense in Venice

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friday mixer bannerEmotions ran high at a town hall meeting inside a Venice elementary school auditorium Thursday.

Those gathered were concerned, and in many cases, irate, about this week’s killing of an unarmed homeless man by an LAPD officer near the Venice Boardwalk.

City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, said what happened to 29-year-old Brendon Glenn highlights problems with how LAPD interacts with panhandlers and people living on the streets.

“We always fail each other and the homeless when we make LAPD our first responder for homelessness,” Bonin told KCRW at the meeting. “That doesn’t work.”

Homelessness on the Venice Boardwalk is nothing new. I remember a story our producer Avishay Artsy and I did a couple of years ago about an overnight curfew and how it was received. But the shooting of Glenn also highlights the lack of resources for the neighborhood’s homeless population.

Within one day of the encounter, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters he was “very concerned” about the shooting. But the union that represents rank-and-file police officers criticized Beck’s comments as “completely irresponsible”.

Residents, store owners and activists lined up to speak and ask questions. But LAPD Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala was short on answers.

Including when — if ever — a surveillance video of the shooting would be released.

“One of the reasons that video is not out there is we cannot taint the memories of witnesses,” she said. “We want them to be absolutely pure.”

This is the same type argument LAPD used in the Ezell Ford case, when Ford was shot in South L-A last summer. Although it was Ford’s autopsy that wasn’t released right away, as opposed to surveillance video in this case, the department said they were being sensitive to witnesses who may have seen something.

In the Ford case, like in the Glenn case, Girmala is asking more witnesses to come forward.

Kate Mather reports on crime and breaking news for the Los Angeles Times. She was at last night’s meeting, and she joined us for this week’s Mixer.