Sunday, February 03, 2008

Spears' 12-officer police escort prompts call for paparazzi limits

L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine plans to push for a measure to create a 'personal safety zone' for those targeted by the media. Chief Bratton says existing laws should suffice.

Britney Spears
By Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

February 2, 2008

After aggressive paparazzi prompted police to escort Britney Spears to the hospital this week, Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine announced Friday that he plans to push for an ordinance that would create a minimum "personal safety zone" around individuals targeted by the media.

Zine said the estimated $25,000 it cost for police to escort Spears to the hospital was necessary to protect the public from dangers posed by the horde of celebrity photographers pursuing the pop star. He said paparazzi were increasingly endangering celebrities and bystanders with their aggressive behavior and car pursuits.

"I don't want a repeat of what happened to Princess Diana with a celebrity in Los Angeles," he said. "We had to have 12 officers escort [Spears] to the hospital that if not for paparazzi would have been used to prevent crime somewhere else."

Zine said he plans to introduce a motion that calls for the city attorney and LAPD to draft new restrictions on paparazzi, including an ordinance that would create a zone of clear space in order to protect public safety on streets, sidewalks and at access points to emergency care facilities and private businesses and homes.

"It is a major issue we have to address. We are in a celebrity town," he said. "Celebrities have a right to live in peace and freedom."

But Police Chief William J. Bratton said existing laws can deal with the paparazzi.

"Councilman Zine is responding to frustration we all have with the paparazzi," Bratton said. "We already have appropriate laws within the constitutional guidelines and we intend to do that whether it is erratic driving, trespassing on private property or any action that goes beyond the constitutional rights to cover a story."

Bratton strongly defended the LAPD decision to deploy a dozen officers to escort Spears, saying she is a resident of the city and is "certainly in great need of assistance."

He said the public should blame the paparazzi for this week's events.

"They are the ones making a spectacle of themselves," Bratton said. Representatives for Spears told Los Angeles police officials Monday that they believed she needed a psychiatric evaluation because of continuing erratic behavior.

After extensive discussions about alternatives, the LAPD mapped a strategy for getting her to UCLA Medical Center amid an anticipated swarm of paparazzi. The next morning the plan was executed with about two dozen police officers, a helicopter and a special team that took Spears out through a gate in an ambulance with covered windows to shield her from photographers.

Meanwhile, a Los Angeles County court commissioner Friday granted Spears' father, James, and a court-appointed attorney temporary conservatorship over her affairs and estate, said Allan Parachini, a court spokesman.

The decision gives James Spears the ability to make decisions involving his daughter's assets, property and medical care, restrict visitors to her home, change locks at her residence and hire security.