L.A. City Council Mulls Verified Response

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-1 in January to reconsider the Los Angeles Police Commission’s unanimous approval of the police department’s proposed verified response policy. The council made its decision based on widespread concern from the alarm industry and the public about the policy.

As a result, the city council had 21 days to hold hearings and either veto the new policy by a two-thirds vote or let it stand. The final vote had not taken place at press time. Alarm companies in Los Angeles plan to offer video verification packages or private security services to their customers.

Under the new policy, the Los Angeles Police Department would direct officers to only respond to burglar alarms that are first verified by a property owner, private security company or via video monitoring. The commission unanimously approved the special order at the urging of newly appointed Chief William Bratton.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who led the opposition to the policy in the city council, said there has been no decision that has more directly impacted people than this blanket policy. Councilman Nate Holden added that the policy is “unintentionally sending a signal to the burglars and those who are going to rob you that, ‘Hey, it’s OK. We are not going to come.’”

City officials said the move was necessary because 92 percent of the 136,000 alarm calls annually are false, wasting police time and money. The chief also stressed the police department’s issue of officer deployment.

“It is 15 percent of the time we spend on patrol responding to [burglar alarms]. That is time I can use for other purposes on directed patrol dealing with more significant crime problems,” Bratton says.

In an 11th-hour plea, the alarm industry in mid-December stopped the commission’s vote on verified response, and acted quickly to provide data and statistics to the commission before its next meeting. Despite a strong turnout from the industry, the commission approved the new policy.

Many security companies plan to inform their clients in Los Angeles about the policy. George Gunning of USA Alarm Systems and former president of the California Alarm Association (CAA) says, aside from preparing video camera verification packages, he’ll have to look into insurance policy issues regarding liablity when working with a private security firm.

Joe Gunn, executive director of the police commission, said the alarm system needs reform. “I believe that the council has a right to hear this and get more information. I would be disappointed if, the next time we vote, that they vote to override the commission because I believe what the commission did was in the best interest of the citizens of Los Angeles.”

Hahn said she will push for a veto after council members have a chance to draft an alternative approach.

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