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Mayor and LAPD chief assure voters that L.A. is election-ready and voting is safe

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore say the city is prepared for next week’s election — come what may — and that Angelenos should feel confident that the polls are safe.

“I don’t want to buy into a narrative that there’s going to be chaos during our election,” Garcetti said Wednesday.

He said there is “no intelligence” suggesting any sort of plot to carry out violence or voter intimidation at L.A. polls, but the city is “very prepared” to protect voters who will be casting ballots.

“We prepare for the worst, but we are hoping and expect generally the best,” he said.

He said there are restrictions on police staging at election sites — “that’s not the sort of country we live in,” he said — but that the LAPD will be “available to protect our rights when we need them, should anybody through violence or other means try to take that away.”

At this week’s meeting Tuesday, Moore told commissioners that polls in L.A. are safe and encouraged Angelenos to vote.

“I’m happy to say that Los Angeles polls are safe and they’re operating smoothly,” Moore said, noting that more people in the city have mailed in their ballots than has been the case in past years.

Garcetti and Moore’s emphasis on safety at the polls fall against a backdrop of national concerns about intimidation or unrest around an extremely contentious national election for president. This election cycle has seen extraordinary levels of voter activism and engagement.

It also comes after a summer of unrest in the city amid protests against police brutality and two consecutive sports celebrations — after the Lakers’ NBA title victory and the Dodgers’ World Series win — that escalated into violence and clashes between revelers and police this month.

Some jurisdictions — including neighboring Beverly Hills — have expressed concerns about the election sparking more unrest. Beverly Hills announced it was closing its famed Rodeo Drive shopping corridor, advising store owners to board up their windows, and hiring some 80 independent armed security officials to supplement the city’s police force.

Garcetti and Moore have each struck a more optimistic tone, while also stressing that preparations are in place for widespread unrest if it comes to that in L.A. — either on election day, which is Tuesday, or in the days that follow if there isn’t a clear winner or if people decide to gather in large numbers to protest or celebrate the result.

Moore told the commission Tuesday that he is in regular communication with other law enforcement agencies and elected officials in the county about polling locations and their safety, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and that will continue through next week.

Moore said LAPD officers are all dressing in full uniform for the foreseeable future, to bolster the visible police presence around the city.

If disturbances at polling locations or violent or destructive gatherings elsewhere in the city should arise, the department “will have resources ready and we’ll take immediate action to restore order,” Moore said.

Moore said he has been encouraged by elected officials and those running for office who have “expressed in a full-throated fashion that there is no place for violence as we go forward in this election process.”

The conversation built on another one between Moore and the commission the previous week, when Commissioner Steve Soboroff asked several blunt questions about the elections.

“Is it safe in Los Angeles for people to go to their polls and vote? Are they going to be met with these self-imposed monitors who walk around with guns and things like that?” Soboroff asked.

Soboroff also asked how Moore intended to keep the city safe if the results of the election are not immediately known, or if large numbers of people want to protest in the streets over the result.

“Are we safe during this period?” Soboroff asked.

“We are safe,” said Moore.

Moore said there are laws in California against armed militias showing up at polling places, as well as other forms of politicking, and those laws will be enforced. LAPD personnel have been “briefed up” on such rules, he said.

“There’s no temperament for any intimidation,” he said.

Moore said staffing has been boosted and staggered such that the department will have significant numbers of officers on duty well into election night and beyond, both to facilitate peaceful protests and shut down intimidation, violence or destruction.

“I’m hopeful for a relatively quick resolution, but if this were to stretch out, then of course as a department we’ll work with all of our local officials in communicating … and ensuring that public safety continues in Los Angeles, as is our primary responsibility,” Moore said.

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