Los Angeles Port Police Chief Thomas Gazsi assured harbor commissioners Thursday that his officers would never put a knee to the throat of a man struggling for breath.
“We witnessed deplorable and reprehensible conduct on the part of Minneapolis police officers,” Gazsi said. “Know that what we witnessed as Americans nationally is not in keeping with the great traditions of law enforcement nor is it certainly of the Los Angeles Port Police nor of our closest allied partners. In discussing this with our police officers in a variety of roll call settings, they all found it as deplorable as I did.”
Gazsi addressed the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners at its meeting Thursday morning, just hours before a memorial service began in Minneapolis for George Floyd, the black man who died after being held to the ground during an arrest. Four police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd’s death.
Cellphone footage of one of those Minneapolis police officers holding down Floyd while he pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” has incited days of nationwide protests against the brutal treatment of black men.
“Our police officers, under mutual aid agreements, have been detailed in and around Los Angeles to assist the Los Angeles Police Department in restoring order — upholding the First Amendment rights of those that would protest peacefully. Most notably our officers were detailed to Los Angeles Fire Department stations to escort LAFD personnel responding to calls for fires, rescues, accidents and medical needs — in some cases even escorting the rescue ambulances to hospitals,” Gazsi said.
“In some cases we were deployed to areas of Los Angeles where there was unrest to ensure the First Amendment rights of those that were protesting, demonstrating their frustration with the current climate, was allowed to occur without being impeded,” he said.
Gazsi praised his officers for performing these duties “with the utmost dignity, the utmost thoughtfulness and the utmost care.”
He also reported there had been no damage in or around the port complex and no port police or complex personnel had been injured as a result of the protests.
“We will continue to look at ways we can improve our relations in the Port of Los Angeles at all levels, and we will continue to police the Port of Los Angeles with great dignity,” Gazsi said.
He noted that the officers’ responsibilities have grown as the San Pedro Bay complex has grown since the police department’s formation in 1911. Today the department is composed of 300 sworn officers and civilian personnel, and the force’s jurisdiction spans 7,500 acres along 43 miles of waterfront.
“The reputation that we maintain, and I’m proud that we have, is that we’re a very sensitive, caring, thoughtful and discreet police department, which you have my full commitment that we will continue to be with increased sensitivity,” Gazsi said. “Now it doesn’t mean that we rest on our laurels or take for granted the successes of the past. We always have to evaluate ourselves, our conduct, and my commitment to you is that we will do just that.”
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