LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- After more than a week of silence, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, is defending the officers involved in three deadly arrests earlier this month.
"This is not a video game, this is not where you get nine lives. You're out there, this is your one life," said LAPPL representative Debbie Thomas, referring to officers who respond to calls involving violent people. "Domestic violence incidents along with traffic stops account for the majority of police officers being ambushed and murdered."
In the three separate cases, three men died after interacting with LAPD officers.
Two of the men were shot and one was tased. One man lunged at officers with a homemade spear while another threatened officers with a knife.
In the third case, a man who caused a traffic wreck was tased several times while resisting arrest. All three were suspected of suffering from psychological conditions.
The string of deaths so early in the year prompted accusations of police brutality.
"This is a pattern and practice of brutality and terrorism by police officers in every department in Los Angeles and across this country," said Cliff Smith of the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police.
Local activists and family members of those killed quickly pointed to the fact that in none of the deadly cases was LAPD's Mental Evaluation Unit called to respond. Even L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore expressed concern that dispatchers had not notified the MEU.
But police union officials say the officers did nothing wrong and that the outcomes of the three cases would not have been different had mental health evaluators been summoned, since those evaluators are not allowed to interact with violent suspects until armed officers are able to secure the scene and make sure there are no threats.
"In all three incidents that we talked about today, nothing would have changed if an MEU unit was at the scene," said Detective Jamie McBride, the LAPPL Board Director. "In any of these incidents, they have to be rendered safe first before a mental evaluation unit can come up."
McBride says LAPD's policies and protocols are clear: It's Mental Evaluation Units and Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Teams, known as SMART, are classified as second responders.
The union sent a five-page letter to L.A. City Council members and Mayor Karen Bass spelling out the police policies and procedures regarding it's Mental Evaluation Units that the city approved, and pointing out the lack of MEU resources, which the union says is fluctuated between four to eight each day shift.
Eyewitness News has found those teams are only able to respond to about a third of their calls.
"These are four to six units, four to eight units, that are deployed a day depending on the time of day for the entire city of Los Angeles," McBride said.