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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Militarization of Police

Connor Sheets and Robert J. Lopez at LAT:
Policing in Los Angeles changed forever on the morning of Feb. 28, 1997, when Americans watched on live TV as a 44-minute firefight unfolded between two heavily armed bank robbers and outgunned LAPD officers at a Bank of America in a bustling North Hollywood shopping district.

In the end, nearly 2,000 bullets were fired, the two robbers were killed, and multiple officers and civilians were injured in the now-infamous showdown, which helped usher in the modern era of militarized police.

Last week, another shocking incident just three blocks away offered a tragic postscript to the high-powered approach that police adopted after the bank shootout.

A Los Angeles police officer carrying an assault-style rifle rushed with several other officers into a Burlington department store after receiving reports that a man was attacking people inside. The officer charged ahead to confront a man who had attacked shoppers with a bike lock, firing three rounds and killing the man seconds after first laying eyes on him.

But those shots also killed 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who was hiding in a nearby changing room with her mother and was struck by one of the rounds after police say it ricocheted off the floor and pierced a wall.

Those two violent events — 24 years apart — demonstrate the pendulum swing in American law enforcement that has become a part of the outrage that followed Valentina’s killing.

After the shootout, the LAPD and law enforcement agencies across the country boosted their firepower, equipping officers with high-powered rifles and other weaponry. The LAPD also authorized its officers to carry high-caliber handguns, and Los Angeles passed a series of gun control measures.

The officer who killed Valentina fired a military-grade rifle.