Fans Demand L.A. Bill the Rams for Policing

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — After fans traded punches during the first Los Angeles Rams home games in 22 years, city officials said the team should help pay police who provide security, but talks “are going nowhere,” a former councilman said, so he sued the city to see that it makes the Rams pay up.
     Former City Councilman Dennis Zine and another resident sued the city and Police Chief Charlie Beck on Wednesday in Superior Court. Zine claims that providing a heavy police presence at NFL games without reimbursement from the Rams “constitutes an unlawful gift of public funds” from the city to the team.
     Zine and L.A. taxpayer James Bibeau ask court to declare that deploying LAPD officers at Rams games is an illegal gift of city resources. They also want a restraining order and injunction barring the city from underwriting security without payment.
     “The primary beneficiary of the staffing of police officers without remuneration to the Rams to perform security functions is the Rams and not the public,” the taxpayers say.
     They cite a city ordinance stating that if an event sponsor wants “to ensure that certain types and levels of services will be provided” by the city, the sponsor must “negotiate a contract with the city to clearly define the types and levels of services requested, and to provide for payment for all services beyond the normal level of services.”
     The Rams is not party to the lawsuit, and a representative said the team could not comment on it. The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office did not return a call about the case.
     Zine said Thursday that his former council colleagues support his goal of making the Rams pay the city for police protection. Early estimates put the cost at $200,000 per game, or $2 million per season, which includes preseason games.
     The City Council on Aug. 12 adopted a motion asking the LAPD to determine how much it costs to deploy officers for the games.
     Significantly, the motion asks the department to determine whether “deploying officers to cover football games will have an effect on response times for residents in other parts of the city.”
     That same day, four members of the council, including council President Herb Wesson, wrote Rams’ owner E. Stanley Kroenke “to request that you fully fund the public safety contingent which includes members of the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and California Highway Patrol among others.”
     Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who spearheaded the motion and the letter, could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
     The security is clearly needed. Fights broke out at both of the Rams pre-season games at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in August.
     At the team’s first home game Aug. 13 — when 89,000 spectators set a pre-season NFL attendance record — Rams’ fans fought with each other and with Dallas Cowboys fans. Three people were arrested and seven were ejected from the stadium, though it wasn’t clear if those were connected to the fighting.
     At the second game, on Aug. 20, LA fans joined in fights among Kansas City Chiefs fans.
     In the week between the two games, the Rams issued a statement calling fan safety “a priority,” and saying it would meet with the city, the LAPD and USC, which operates Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
     But in an interview Thursday, Zine said that so far, “The meetings are going nowhere.”
     The team is “willing to meet, but they’re not willing to come up with any dollars,” he said.
     Security is also needed in the neighborhood around the Coliseum, which has a higher than average crime rate. Fans often have to walk several blocks from their cars to the arena, Zine said, who once served as a policeman in the area.
     For the first two exhibition games, detectives had to be pulled off their usual assignments to patrol the area because there are not enough on-duty officers to cover inside the stadium and outside. With funding from the Rams, off-duty officers could be called to work overtime, Zine said.
     The letter from the four council members stated that “only off-duty officers [should] be employed” for game-day security.
     There’s another reason Zine said he had to sue rather than wait for negotiations to work out. Two years from now, the Rams are expected to move out of the LA Coliseum into a new, $1.8 billion stadium in Inglewood.
     “That’s a whole new city, with a whole new police department,” Zine said.
     The Rams’ time in Los Angeles “is a visit. They’re not staying here.”
     Once the Rams are gone, getting reimbursed for LAPD services will become more difficult. “We’re running out of time,” Zine said.His attorney Richard Levine, with Silver, Hadden, Silver & Levine, in Santa Monica, did not return a call seeking comment.
     The Rams moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis for this year’s season, to the great distress of many people in Missouri.

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