LAPD honors officers for their bravery and, for the first time, their restraint
Los Angeles Police Officer Danielle Lopez and her partner were driving to a South L.A. jail when they spotted a man in the middle of the street pointing an assault rifle at other cars.The officers jumped out and drew their guns.
“Drop the gun!” Lopez remembers shouting at the man. “Drop the gun!”
It was a tense moment, a potentially life-or-death scenario that police train for but hope to avoid: one that could have ended in gunfire.
Instead, Lopez and her partner were able to persuade the man to drop the rifle and step away, arresting him without firing a single bullet. After taking him into custody, the officers realized that the gun he was carrying was, in fact, a fake.
On Thursday, Lopez and Officer Bryan Waggener were recognized for their judgment and restraint, joining a group of 25 officers who became the LAPD’s first recipients of a new award: the Preservation of Life medal.
The LAPD has long recognized officers for heroic acts, bestowing the department’s highest honor — the Medal of Valor — upon those who have pulled people from fiery car crashes or shielded fellow officers during shootouts.
But the Preservation of Life medal honors officers who go above and beyond normal police work to avoid using deadly force during dangerous encounters.
Six months after her confrontation with the rifle-wielding man, Lopez said Thursday that she was honored to receive the award but felt she was simply doing what she was trained to do.
“We put on the uniform, go out there and in some situations like this, it’s part of our job,” Lopez said after the ceremony, the new medal pinned to her uniform.
The new award marks a relatively novel approach by the LAPD, reflecting an increasing emphasis within policing on so-called “de-escalation” strategies aimed at defusing tense encounters with the public amid a heated national debate over how officers use force.