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As Omicron Cases Surge At The LAPD, Officers Continue to Disregard Face Covering Mandates

One morning, well-known LAPD critic William Gude walked into LAPD Hollywood Division station to file a complaint with a supervisor. While Gude filmed the interaction on his cell phone, Jose Granados, a veteran cop assigned to desk duty, blasted Green Day’s early 2000’s hit, ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams,’ presumably to trigger a copyright violation.

“Good music Jose…just understand that’s also a first amendment violation,” Gude said.

“Can’t hear you,” Granados responded sarcastically while the bridge to the chorus played.

“I know, of course not…that’s a first amendment violation, and that’s going to be another complaint filed,” Gude said before leaving the station.

Later, when he returned to file a complaint against Granados, Granados put on ‘Low Rider’ by War while Gude filmed.

This is what it’s like to be L.A.’s top cop-watcher. Since the start of the pandemic, Gude has filed hundreds of complaints against police officers for alleged misconduct ranging from not wearing face coverings to biased policing.

On Wednesday, Gude filed more than 40 complaints against LAPD Hollywood Division officers, including the front desk cop, for allegedly failing to wear masks. Since then, he’s filed more complaints, and he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. “We're trying to file 1,000 mask complaints by this weekend. Just a matter of getting them uploaded,” Gude told L.A. TACO earlier in the week.

“Masks are required indoors by your department. Masks are also required while indoors under [Los Angeles] and [California] mandates,” Gude wrote in an email to LAPD Chief Michel Moore Wednesday morning. “In the past six months, I've filed over 100 complaints for masklessness *inside* the Hollywood station lobby. With the Omicron variant wreaking havoc, how is this acceptable, Michel?”

In the same email, Gude attached 43 formal complaints and a link to video footage showing officers allegedly failing to wear face coverings while inside the lobby of Hollywood Community Police Station.

Front-line public safety workers have seen an alarming increase in COVID cases over the past several weeks. More than 500 LAPD employees—roughly 3 percent of the entire workforce—were at home quarantining as of the first of the month. More than 400 of those employees—the majority of them sworn officers—tested positive in the past week, raising concerns about the department’s ability to respond to emergencies as well as routine calls. “These are big numbers,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Thursday during a press conference to reassure the public that the police department is adequately staffed.

Meanwhile, the county has reported more coronavirus cases among residents than at any other time during the pandemic.

In a statement to L.A. TACO, Chief Moore said that the department continues to take “progressive discipline” against officers who fail to wear a face covering. “We also continue [to require] all of our personnel to be fully vaccinated and practice other protective measures. We are currently working with [the] Personnel Department to update our vaccination rates which now stand at 84 percent.”

Chief Moore describes “progressive discipline” as “the concept of taking incremental steps to motivate employees to comply with expectations/requirements.”

“Discipline should be proportional and used in a manner that motivates an employee to perform as required,” Chief Moore told L.A. TACO. “In serious cases of misconduct, progressive discipline may start at suspensions, demotion or go directly to removal.”

According to Chief Moore, consequences range “from a verbal counseling to written documentation, written notice to correct deficient performance or being subject to further discipline, written reprimand, suspension, loss of pay [and] ultimately removal.”

Chief Moore says that 11 employees are in the process of being “removed from the department” for refusing to get vaccinated or provide a valid religious or medical exemption. Those individuals are reportedly no longer in the workplace. Additionally, the department is reviewing other instances in which LAPD employees have requested a religious or medical exemption. “While those are being reviewed, these employees are required to provide at their own expense proof of being non-Covid positive via two tests weekly,” Chief Moore told L.A. TACO Wednesday afternoon.

Gude tells L.A. TACO that none of his complaints against officers for failing to wear face coverings have been sustained, and therefore, officers aren’t being punished. “Moore is playing word games to defend officers from discipline at the expense of public health, as well as public finances.”

“Notice the word choice of ‘discipline.’ Discipline comes after the guilt/innocence stage. He is not sustaining the complaints, and therefore it doesn't even get to the discipline stage. It's why the monthly discipline reports [don’t] show officers being disciplined.” The LAPD publicizes disciplinary actions in monthly reports posted to their website. According to Gude, no officer has been listed in the reports for not wearing a face covering, despite the hundreds of complaints that he’s filed.

During a joint press briefing on Thursday morning with Mayor Garcetti and the Los Angeles Fire Department chief, Chief Moore stated that he did not see a correlation between the surge in cases among LAPD officers and reluctance to wear face coverings. “This variant that we are seeing today, I do not attribute to the lack of masks,” the chief of police said.

A day earlier, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health modified their health officer order to require employers to provide N-95 masks to all employees working indoors or within close contact with others. “It appears that a small number of fully vaccinated persons can get asymptomatic or mild infections and may be able to infect others. This is why even if you are fully vaccinated, you are now required to wear a mask indoors.”

During the press conference on Thursday morning, Garcetti and Moore predicted that the surge would end as quickly as it started, based on evidence seen in South Africa, where the Omnicron variant first emerged. “We will see this surge peak maybe as early as the end of this week or next week, and it should come down pretty rapidly as well,” Garcetti claimed.

On Thursday afternoon, LA County reported a record-breaking 37,215 new cases of COVID as well as 30 deaths. The highest levels of cases seen during the pandemic.

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