Over the objections of some civil liberties groups, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved controversial new guidelines for when officers can document suspicious behavior they believe could be linked to terrorism, reports the Los Angeles Times. The five-member civilian oversight panel unanimously approved a special order that gives officers the authority to write reports on people whose actions might not break any laws, such as taking a photograph of a power plant. The police department revised its policy in response to criticism so that officers are specifically forbidden to engage in racial and other profiling and the department is required to conduct regular audits of the program. In addition, the department will establish an advisory board and to regularly purge its records of unfounded suspicions.
“We have active terrorist plots in this region right now,” Deputy Chief Michael Downing told commissioners. In an interview, Downing said that such terrorism activity amounts to helping with financing and organization of terrorism and not a specific plan to carry out an attack in the region. Some civil libertarians faulted the commission for not making more significant reforms and cited the department’s history of violating public privacy. “We ought to be ashamed of ourselves,” said attorney Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild. He said the program, which also encourages residents to contact police about suspicions, would encourage neighbors to spy on neighbors.