The Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce (BHCC) held an online meeting Oct. 22 on matters of security surrounding the Nov. 3 General Election. During the meeting, Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) Assistant Police Chief Marc Coopwood informed businesses that Rodeo Drive would be closed to both vehicles and pedestrians starting on Election Day. While BHPD said that it had no intelligence of specific threats to the City, Coopwood assured the community that the department would be able to prevent a repeat of the looting and vandalism the City experienced in May.
“We are probably one of the most prepared cities for this,” said BHCC President Todd Johnson. “We’re prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.”
Coopwood shared what he described as “nine weeks of work” in “preparing for the worst,” though he cautioned that all plans are subject to change as the situation unfolds.
According to Executive Officer Lieutenant Max Subin, who heads the department’s intelligence gathering operations, BHPD has no information about specific threats to the City. “There’s currently no intel,” Subin said. “We’re definitely being more prepared at this point.”
The City will implement a “hard closure” of Rodeo Drive commencing early in the morning on Nov. 3, closing the street to both pedestrian and car traffic. This will limit access to Rodeo between South Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, including Dayton, Brighton and Clifton Ways. Coopwood said that BHPD hopes to reopen Rodeo on either Nov. 4 or Nov. 5.
The hard closure will involve blocking the street off with concrete barriers known as K-rails. Other streets around the Business District will have K-rails and crowd control gates “pre-staged” to move into position, if necessary.
Though businesses are not required to close down, Johnson suggested that most businesses would be better off closing down for those days. “So, it sounds like businesses…on Rodeo really should plan to be closed those two days, unless they are medical or dental or something like that,” he said.
Coopwood encouraged businesses to board up to help “harden” the City. “We can recommend that you board up, but we can’t mandate that you board up,” he said. “When we harden a target within an area of the City, it’s going to free up resources for us to go patrol or police other portions of the community.”
The Beverly Hills City Council voted at its Oct. 13 Regular Meeting to approve an additional $4.8 million for supplemental police and security services in anticipation of the potential civil unrest around the presidential race. The funds provide overtime for BHPD officers, additional support from the Santa Paula Police Department (SPPD), services by two private armed security firms, and five new “overhires” for the BHPD.
As a part of BHPD’s precautions, the department will go into full tactical alert starting on Oct. 31, with officers and staff split into two alternating 12-hour shifts. The department’s ranks will be bolstered by 12 officers from the SPPD, two sergeants and 10 officers who will also work 12- hour days. Then, to allow BHPD more flexibility during the period, the City will contract with two armed private security companies, Nastec International, Inc. and Covered 6. The two firms will provide 80 armed guards.
Lastly, the City will also hire five officers to the BHPD. These would be considered overhires, as they exceed the department’s 145 authorized full-time sworn positions.
On top of the additional security provided by the $4.8 million, Beverly Hills has mutual aid agreements with Santa Monica, Culver City, West Hollywood, UCLA, and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which the City has called on multiple times already in the last several months.
“We’re also working out the arrangements with the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office for their Bureau of Investigation to come in and assist us,” BHPD Interim Police Chief Dominick Rivetti told the City Council at the Oct. 13 Study Session. “And also with the State Department of Justice, the BNE, or the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement And then we’re also talking to some of our federal partners to do the same thing, such as the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.”
The City will start implementing the security measures on Oct. 31.
“Halloween is always a big event in our City,” said Coopwood at the Oct. 22 online meeting. “It’s always a big event in West Hollywood. We are not allowing Halloween this year, so we need to be prepared for people that either don’t know about that or are going to protest against that.”
Coopwood highlighted the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a centralized base from which representatives from every City department can keep tabs on volatile situations. Using the City’s extensive network of CCTV cameras, the EOC can monitor how things develop on the ground and move resources as necessary.
“We have over 2,000 high-definition city camera videos and we’re going to be watching the entire City, including the business district, very closely to see if we see anything that is occurring that requires our attention,” Coopwood said.
Businesses and residents have access to a hotline to either make reports or ask questions to the EOC staff. The hotline will be a non-emergency number to share general information or ask questions. “Anytime that there is an emergency–you see somebody trying to set a building on fire, you see somebody trying to vandalize a building–that is a 911 phone call,” Coopwood said. “The hotline is really for more general information or questions.”
Coopwood sought to distinguish the City’s response now to that of May 30. “May 30 was a resource issue,” Coopwood said. “This time, we have almost double the resources.” While protesters peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights would be allowed to do so, the City would have the resources to stop any malfeasance, Coopwood said.
Even after approving millions in additional funding for security, the issue remains at the top of the City Council’s agenda. At press time, the Beverly Hills City Council was holding a Special Closed Session Meeting on the topic of “Threat to Public Services or Facilities” in consultation with Rivetti.