The LAPD Board of Police Commissioners were going to vote today on rules that would govern public attendance and participation at their meetings. This was being done to, in the commission’s words, “establish an appropriate level of safety, decorum and efficiency in the meeting room.” However, Los Angeles Black Lives Matters activists say that the board swiped the vote off the agenda at the last minute.
Some are very worried that the proposed rules are subjective and structured to limit their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. In the last several months, police reform advocates (including those affiliated with Black Lives Matter) have bumped heads with the commission. At a meeting last month, the LAPD declared their attendance an “unlawful assembly,” which meant they could be arrested if they didn’t immediately disperse.
Among the proposed rules, are:
- No visitors are allowed to stand in the board room; when capacity is reached, people will be sent to an overflow room.
- Audience members may not “engage in loud, threatening or abusive language, whistling, stamping feet or other acts which cause a disruption.”
- All requests to speak must be submitted to the Sergeant-at-Arms before the public comment period begins.
- Attendees are to “behave in a civil manner at all times.”
- Signs that “disturb” or “disrupt” meetings are prohibited.
- Speakers must address the board in an “orderly manner” and refrain from making “repetitious, personal, impertinent or profane remarks.”
If these rules are passed, those who are deemed in violation of the rules will be warned, then removed from the room or charged for subsequent offenses. The commission would also be able to decide to clear the space and continue the meeting with only press in the room if they so chose.
The L.A. chapter of Black Lives Matter held a press conference prior to the meeting to oppose the proposed measures, and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Southern California branch wrote a letter condemning the rules. In it, the organization’s police practices legal fellow Catherine Wagner wrote that the language “leaves open the possibility it may be construed in ways inconsistent with the protections for free speech in both the United States and California constitutions.” After acknowledging the need to prevent genuine disruption, she noted that “mere speech, however, does not constitute an actual disruption simply because some may have been offended by the words use or found the message disrespectful.”