L.A. City Council Jumps On The Body-Armor Band Wagon

Following last month's state appeals court ruling overturning California's ban on body armor for ex-felons convicted of violent crimes, the Los Angeles City Council is poised to consider a similar law that would apply locally.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing rank-and-file Los Angeles Police Department cops, was livid after the ruling, and it has urged Attorney General Jerry Brown to challenge it at the state Supreme Court level, a move he has vowed to undertake. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and San Francisco police Chief George Gascon have also decried the ruling, saying it would make criminals on the street more brazen when dealing with police.

The body armor issue has been a bonanza, in fact, for state and local leaders, it's a wonder that it took the City Council this long to zero in on such an easy political score. It's certainly simpler to enact laws like this -- which will probably be superseded on a state level anyway -- than to deal with the city's looming, $400 million deficit, its lack of a medical-marijuana-dispensary ordinance, or its difficulty in hiring cops.

This is a political no-brainer, and Councilman Dennis Zine, a reserve officer, was all over it, making the proposal to the council, which has yet to vote on the idea.

"Whatever happens, we want to be able to do something locally, and I also hope that other jurisdictions within the state of California will join in this,'' he said. "It's definitely critical to our officers."

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley got in on the action at the end of last month, writing legislation that would reenact and clarify a statewide ban. He told the Weekly that Sen. Alex Padilla might carry the proposal in Sacramento.

The last ban was overturned because the state appeals court ruled that the language was too vague for the average person to understand its definition of body armor. The case stemmed from a 2007 Los Angeles police stop of a convicted murderer who was out on parole. The man was wearing body armor, but his lawyers argued successfully that the language of the law was too confusing for him to have known better.

The original state law was passed in 1998, one year after the North Hollywood shootout in which two men armed with assault rifles and sporting bullet-proof vests traded bullets with cops with impunity.

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