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No uniforms for cops on film set security

June 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
For years, Hollywood producers have hired retired Los Angeles police officers to provide security and traffic control for location shoots across L.A. The department is about to impose new rules for both those retirees and those producers. Los Angeles has long been known as the entertainment capital of the world, a reputation that also comes with a nice benefit: more than $30 billion each year for the Los Angeles economy.

Providing security for most of those location shoots is a group of more than 100 retired police officers who dress like they're still on the force. But now LAPD Chief William Bratton wants them to wear a different uniform.

"Will not have the authority with that new uniform," said one officer.

"This thing stinks," said another officer.

"You think the housing crunch here is bad? Wait until the film industry is gone," said another officer.

A standing-room only crowd packed the L.A. Police Commission meeting, upset that Bratton wants to ban retired officers from wearing police uniforms and badges.

Retired officers who work on location shoots say the new uniform is a farce, that the public won't follow their directions, and that on dangerous stunt shoots, someone could get hurt.

"You can't have people disrespecting the uniform, driving around it and entering into a secure area where there's a movie stunt going on," said Hal DeJong, president, Motion Picture Officers Association. "People are going to get hurt."

According to the LAPD plan, production crews can hire actual LAPD officers, though they would have to pay the officers at their overtime rate and incur other fees as well, something the LAPD sees as a new source of revenue in these tough times.

"But the amount of money that is being realized by the middle man, if you will, will then go to the city, and that's millions of dollars a year," said LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell.

Many in the movie industry say filming in Los Angeles is already too expensive. The extra policing costs will just force studios move their productions to other cities and states

"If the proposal the chief made is going to essentially double the costs of police officers when we're filming in the city of Los Angeles, it will definitely drive some productions out of town," said location manager Mike Fantasia.

DeJong said most of the retired officers will call it quits if the new uniforms are required. Their second retirements may come quickly: The LAPD says its new rules will go into effect in about three months.

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