LAPD confirms presence of special unit on campus

Donnella Collison

CSUN police arrive at the student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan's (MEChA) first meeting on Sept. 2 after an incident with LAPD officers. The incident, which MEChA members said was profiling and harrassment by LAPD officers, is being investigated.
CSUN police arrive at the student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan's (MEChA) first meeting on Sept. 2 after an incident with LAPD officers. The incident, which MEChA members said was profiling and harrassment by LAPD officers, is being investigated.

A top Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) official confirmed that officers were conducting a training exercise at CSUN that involved members of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) earlier this semester. LAPD is now investigating the incident.

Members of MEChA said they were targeted and profiled by LAPD officers during their first meeting on Sept. 2. Members said they were followed, harassed and intimidated by “undercover police officers” during a ceremony to welcome first-time freshmen to their organization.

“We are investigating how the incident started, specific activities of our officers and any interactions that occurred. It is unfortunate that there was any interaction or conflict,” said Deputy Chief Michel Moore, who oversees the San Fernando Valley and is a finalist for the position of L.A.’s police chief, recently vacated by William Bratton. “I do not think that there will be any more training by LAPD on CSUN’s campus.”

Chicano/a studies professor Dr. Jorge Garcia, who was present during the confrontation, said he is pleased to learn that LAPD officers would not be returning to CSUN for training.

“I think it’s excellent. I do not think this is an appropriate place to conduct training,” Garcia said. It creates a climate where students are afraid to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, of free speech and of the press.”

Moore said the officers, from the protective security task force, Archangel section of the Emergency Services division, were receiving training experience in monitoring gatherings, crowds or individuals in public spaces and that they were outside his “chain of command.” They were receiving training from a third party.

“I was unaware that they were on CSUN’s campus. I wasn’t made aware until after the incident. These officers didn’t feel it was necessary to notify the area chain of command that they would be on (CSUN’s) campus,” Moore said.

“Subordinates within LAPD who were running this training didn’t give full disclosure to LAPD command staff and didn’t give full disclosure to us,” said CSUN Police Department Chief Anne Glavin.

“We learned after the fact that they had an outside contractor running the training. We thought that this was internal training involving LAPD supervisors and LAPD officers,” Glavin said.

Responding to reports of a private third party’s involvement in the incident, Moore said that private companies are sometimes used to conduct training for LAPD to “ensure that all practices are state of the art and contemporary.”

Glavin said that if the CSUN police department had been aware that there would be a third party involved in the training exercise, they would not have been inclined to grant permission to LAPD to come on campus.

Glavin said Moore assured her that MEChA was not targeted or that there wasn’t any profiling involved. She stressed that there was no intention to involve the members of the organization in the training exercise but that LAPD was “wrong and had no business doing what they were doing.”

“It was an amazing irony that these officers wandered into territory where MEChA happened to be meeting. These officers had no clue who they were dealing with,” she said. “Needless to say, they do now. I’m sure they are highly embarrassed and thus the apology from the LAPD, a very sincere apology.”

Garcia said he was still skeptical that there was no profiling involved.

“So a group of Mexicans just so happened to be there while they are training and there was no profiling, and they just happen to practice on this group,” Garcia said. “That’s an absurdity, on its face!”

Glavin and Moore have described the incident as an “aberration” and an “isolated event.”

“This is highly unusual and I want to stress this. This was not at all normal business,” Glavin said. “It was completely something that went sideways. Neither myself nor Deputy Chief Moore approve of what occurred.”

Garcia disagreed that the incident was an isolated event.

“This hasn’t happened here while she (Glavin) was here but it has in the past, there were paid police officers sitting in Chicano Studies classes and things like that,” Garcia said. “It’s very nice of her to say this hasn’t happened before but she has very limited knowledge and history of what has taken place here. I’m sorry but the chief is speaking out of ignorance, and by ignorance, I mean the lack of knowledge.”

Garcia said that in the 1970s, the organization and the Chicano/a studies department was the target of surveillance and infiltration at the hands of law enforcement agencies.

Moore expressed the department’s regrets for the disturbance and conflict and has issued an apology for the incident during a meeting with Glavin and Dean of Humanities Elizabeth Say.

Say has relayed the apology to members in the Chicano/a department and said that a request for an official written apology is up to the department to decide.

MEChA president Abraham Ramirez, who said the organization has always been a target of law enforcement agencies because they are a progressive organization, said the organization will meet with Moore soon, but that an apology is not enough.

“We deserve more than an apology. We deserve respect, the same as anyone else. There should be more consequences,” Ramirez said. “We are going to get to the bottom of this and find out everything that happened.”

Garcia said the department is looking for outside assistance to pursue the matter through legal channels out of concern for this event reoccurring in the future.