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Despite Hollywood objections, LAPD wants to ban retired officers from wearing uniforms on film locations

June 16, 2009 |  1:04 pm

For decades, retired and off-duty Los Angeles police officers have been mainstays in "The Bidness," controlling traffic and providing general security for filming crews shooting movies and TV shows throughout the city.

Dressed in LAPD uniforms and riding motorcycles nearly identical to the department’s, the aging cadre has relied on the appearance of authority to keep gawkers moving and maintain order on city roads during chase scenes.

Today, after months of failed negotiations and building tensions with the retired cops, LAPD officials declared plans to ban them from wearing police uniforms and badges — a move that industry folks warned will greatly hinder production and do further damage to Hollywood as it struggles to stem the exodus of film sets to other cities.

Speaking before the Police Commission, which oversees the department, Asst. Chief Jim McDonnell unveiled the new uniform retired officers will be required to wear. McDonnell indicated the department is concerned about liability issues, saying that when Angelenos see someone wearing an LAPD badge and in the department’s uniform, they have “certain expectations that the person is trained and has received training consistent with best practices.” He also outlined plans to change the way active cops are hired.

Currently, off-duty officers are hired directly by production crews. In the future, McDonnell said, the LAPD plans to require that films hire the officers through the department at overtime rates. McDonnell said the change will bring “millions of dollars” into city coffers each year.

The dozens of retired cops and film location managers who had packed the audience in protest offered another take. They scoffed at the proposed black pants, white shirts and reflective vests, saying the new uniform would render the retired officers impotent in the eyes of the public.

 “There has to be the threat of some sort of enforcement that comes with the LAPD uniform,” said one retired lieutenant. Kristan Wagner, a location manager who is currently working on the upcoming remake of The Green Hornet comic, echoed that idea, saying, “My concerns are the car chases, the stunts — the control we need will be very difficult."

She, like several others, added that the plan to hire active cops through the department will be time consuming and more expensive, giving studios another reason to look outside Los Angeles for locations. It was not immediately clear when LAPD Chief William J. Bratton plans to order the new rules into effect.

-- Joel Rubin

Photo: Los Angeles Times