LOS ANGELES -- It has been nearly two weeks since police in a South Los Angeles neighborhood fatally shot Ezell Ford, a black man who was unarmed and mentally ill. Despite pressure from the community, the Los Angeles Police Department still refuses to name the officers involved.
Earlier this week, during a meeting with the Florence community, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had suggested that the department might identify the officers "soon."
But now the Los Angeles Police Protective League is pointing to a YouTube video that it claims "raises safety concerns for all LAPD officers," and a police spokesman says the video is a factor in deciding when to name the officers who shot Ford.
"The video refers to the officer-involved shooting of Ezell Ford and calls for revenge for this death," says an LAPPL email sent to members and obtained by HuffPost. "You can see the video titled 'Fuck Tha Police' by a Los Angeles street gang."
The police union's email recommends that all officers "be on heightened alert and pay extra attention to your tactics and surroundings."
"He says, 'F the police,' which generally is not an endearing phrase," Tyler Izen, president of the LAPPL, told NBC4 in Los Angeles. "And then everybody in there, while they're singing and chanting and dancing, simulate a pistol with their hands, and they're pointing them at the camera. What is one to assume from that?"
The video features young men and women in South LA wearing "Save Black Boys" T-shirts as well as news footage and interviews with community members about the shooting of Ford. It comes from hip-hop artist Ceebo Tha Rapper, a South LA man who grew up with Ford and refers to him as a "cousin" although they were not blood relatives.
Ceebo said the police union has characterized his song and video all wrong.
"I didn't intend to threaten them in a physical or violent way," he told HuffPost, but added that he has every intention to "attack them through courts and going through the right procedures."
The hand gestures that mimic the holding of a firearm, he said, merely express the frustration that many South LA residents feel when police point real guns at them.
"In the video, yeah, we're using our hands to make gestures like we're holding a gun, but what about when the police jump out on us and put actual guns in our face?" Ceebo said. "We feel threatened all the time. I'm not saying we're going to kill y'all. The police are supposed to protect and serve us when in actuality they're trying to control us. It's very unfair."
When asked about the LAPPL's allegation that the video comes from a street gang, Ceebo said, "No one in the video is involved in a gang, no gang affiliation whatsoever."
But he said the assumption that people in South LA are gang members is common from the LAPD.
"Pretty much every area of South LA has a street gang, so just because of the location, the police say that we're a street gang, I guess," the rapper said. "Because in the video, there were no gang signs, no gang colors -- it was a mixture of all colors -- there was nothing about the video that said 'gang.' That's just what the police use to assault our character."
He continued, "The police will just pull you over when you're walking or driving around here. Now I make a video, and they want to say I'm a gang member -- a label they put on me, when I never confessed and never said I was a gang member."
The rapper's sentiments about the police are shared by many other residents of the community where Ford was killed.
When asked by HuffPost about the video, LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said it's "not taken lightly."
"You can never predict these things," Montgomery said, adding that while the video is not considered a specific threat to the officers involved in the Ford shooting, it was one of "several reasons" the department has delayed the release of their names. "We understand the public has a right to know this information, but that doesn't outweigh the safety of the officers involved," Montgomery said.
Regardless of the video's perceived threat level, another LAPD spokesman told HuffPost that the department is not changing any tactics or adding any additional officers in the South LA area.
A senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said that relying on the video as a reason to withhold the officers' names is "outrageous."
"I read most of the lyrics as an expression of anger and frustration over police violence and this being a plea for reform, for a change," said the ACLU's Peter Bibring. He added, "The video suggests deep anger at police violence, but that's not a specific and credible threat of violence, much less a specific threat against the officers involved."
Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that police departments do not have a "blanket" right to conceal the identities of police involved in shooting incidents. The court indicated that an officer's name can be withheld if that officer's safety may be in jeopardy.
Bibring said that under the state's Public Records Act, names of officers involved in shootings should generally be released within 10 days. "Under extraordinary circumstances, agencies are allowed to take an additional up-to-14 days," he explained. Those extraordinary circumstances often have to do with finding that responding within 10 days would be burdensome, but Bibring says, "there's just no way that is the case here."
In practice, however, the naming of police involved in shootings varies from department to department. The identities of LA sheriff's deputies involved in the shooting of a man in the Los Angeles suburb of Pico Rivera earlier this month have yet to be released. Police in Ferguson, Missouri, where unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed on Aug. 9, named the officer less than a week after the shooting took place.