Setting up the camera angle, writer, producer, director and cameraman, Larry Fugate sets up a shot on the set of an officer involved shooting video. Photos courtesy of Larry Fugate
A retired Los Angeles police officer who shot training and crime scene video for the department, now produces training videos focused on officer involved shootings, and which are available to any police department that wants one.
by J.J. Smith
Larry Fugate was an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (LA PD) from 1976 to 1997 (when he retired from the force), and he was involved with the LA PD’s video unit since 1980. In addition, when Fugate retired as an officer with the LA PD, he rejoined the department as the civilian manager of the video unit. “When I saw there was a video production unit within the police department, I was very interested in it,” Fugate said. “I was compelled to look into it more, so I went and got a video camera, a Panasonic PK-957. From that point on I was doing video.”
Fugate official joined the LAPD’s video unit in 1982, and he mostly writing scripts, but in 1984, he was on the unit’s team detailed to shoot video at the Los Angeles Olympics. At first Fugate’s job was as an officer detailed to protect the civilian cameramen who shot video of how the police performed at the different venues.
In an incident out of Hollywood, Fugate was alone in the video unit when a staffer from Chief Darryl Gates’ office called saying the Chinese basketball team was shortly going to arrive at Los Angeles Airport, and because they were to play an exhibition game with the LAPD, Gates’ wanted the team’s arrival, and the game with the police officers video taped. Fugate saw an opportunity, so, grabbing a Sony BetaCam that was on loan to the unit, he headed out to the airport. The video he shot was of such quality, that he was made a cameraman.
Larry Fugate on the set of a Los Angeles Police Department training video. LAPD PRODUCED VIDEOS
The LAPD use to produce videos that detailed officer involved shootings, he said. “The tapes are used to train police officers on tactics and survival, and I thought it was a very important tool to help officers be better prepared,” he said. “I became very interested in that; and I directed and produced 57 of them,” he added. “I’m good at it.”
Fugate remained as an officer/cameraman with the unit until 1997 when he retired from as an officer. “They immediately hired me back as a civilian supervisor of the video unit. I ran that unit until retiring as a civilian in 2009,” at which point Fugate used his experience to begin producing police training videos.
Once Fugate decided to pursue independent video production, he contacted police departments in Southern California to find out if there was any interest on the part of law enforcement. Officials with the Arcadia, Calif. Police Department had seen some of the videos I produced for the LA PD and they were interested in having some training tape produced the recreated officer involved shootings, he said.
While there were members of the Arcadia who supported producing the training vides, making a proposal to the department was still a requirement, Fugate said. “The proposal basically said that I’m a consultant who can write and direct officer involved shooting training videos, and because of the costs involved with producing those video—and that police agencies have tight budgets right now—I will produce them for free, the department makes its resources available such as the department’s vehicles, officers to act in the videos, and anything that shows a police presence,” he said.
Bob Anderson is directed to return fire. Photo courtesy of Larry Fugate In addition, because the video is of real situations, I need to have the investigation reports so the script can follow the events “from A to Z,” Fugate said. When production is complete, the department gets a copy of the completed video, and I’m allowed to market the tape to other law enforcement agencies, he added.
While Fugate gets actors and police equipment from the law enforcement departments he works with to produce the videos, the actual shooting equipment is his. “I have all my own production gear. I’m using the Sony HDV-V7U; it’s an HD camera,” to shoot the video, and “the Avid editing system,” to edit the tape.
He also has a production crew made up of friend and professionals, and Fugate says he does most of the shooting. However, “when the production gets really large and I have to focus on directing, I’ll get someone to shoot for me, but it’s all my equipment,” he said.
The videos not only cover what occurred, but there are also interviews with the officers involved. Fugate’s first independent video—“Arcadia Police Department: King’s Pharmacy Robbery”—is divided into four sections, the first is an introduction by the chief of police; the second is a recreation of the events; the third is an interview with the officer involved; and finally critique of the events by a subject matter expert. Each segment is a separate part of the whole, Fugate says. That design allows law enforcement trainers to use the program in different ways including as the catalyst to a group discussion, or to instruct tactics.
TAPES ‘PICKED APART’
Officer Bruce Smith takes aim at the camera. Fugate is aware that the instructors who use the videos “pick the tapes apart,” and the subject matter experts might say, you could have done it better following a different course of action, or an officer’s action that is consider the best thing to have done in the situation might be noted. The subject matter experts might say, “those are the things we want to emulate, and those are the things we want to stay away from.”
Since completing Arcadia Police Department: King’s Pharmacy Robbery, Fugate has nearly 30 videos in various stages of production. The shooting of five videos is complete, and the Ontario, Calif. Police Department is working with Fugate on 25 reenactments, with shooting on some scheduled for January 2011.
“What we are trying to do is produce the best quality training programs for a reasonable price, with the hope that field officers will think of officer safety at all time,” said Fugate, who is developing a marketing plan that will present the tapes to the more than 20,000 police agencies across the United States, as well as the colleges that train police officers. The smaller police departments might benefit the most from acquiring the videos, because they have limited training resources, and, because of budget constraints, one or two officers on duty during the late night, or early morning. Yet those officers “have to deal with the same dangerous criminals as any large city agency.”