Stephen Oduntan, Staff Writer

Jamie Garcia and Baba Akili of Black Lives Matter issued the following statement to LA Focus on Saturday after weeks of protests outside the mayor’s house aimed at blocking him from any role in the new administration:

Garcetti’s residence has been the site of daily morning protests in recent weeks by activists drawing attention to his record as mayor in a bid to derail any possible role in the Biden administration. Trump supporters upset over stay-at-home orders have also been demonstrating there at night.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s list of failures is long, with the housing crisis and failure to address the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement at the top. The city’s houseless population, the majority of which is Black, continues to rise despite billions of tax dollars to address the problem.  Garcetti has also failed to take seriously the millions of people who joined this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.  This Black-led movement has not been calling for more police bureaucracy and oversight but demanding a fundamental change in city priorities: invest in communities and divest from criminalizing Black people, by defunding the police. 

Garcetti’s appointed Police Commission is a perfect example of his continual failure. Garcetti chooses to pack this body with individuals who do not represent the communities most impacted by police violence and who have little understanding about how modern policing operates. Garcetti thinks merely appointing Black faces to high places counts as racial justice. Time and again, he uses the commission as a facade of oversight while empowering police through reform. Time and again, he picks commissioners committed to the status quo.  

Every member of the commission is appointed by the mayor and reflects his priorities. Currently there is Eileen Decker, formerly one of Garcetti’s deputy mayors; Steve Soboroff, a real estate developer; Lou Calanche, executive director of a nonprofit that takes funding to partner with LAPD; and Dale Bonner, who runs a firm that invests in public infrastructure. Garcetti’s newest nominee is William Briggs, an entertainment lawyer. 

The commission is notorious for approving every policy and funding increase that police propose. It is a rubber stamp body. After a summer of rebellion that featured tens of thousands taking the streets of LA, Garcetti sidestepped the call for defunding the police by appointing a “Police Commission Advisory Committee” to give the Police Commission recommendations for police reform. A special committee to advise an oversight body: the irony is telling. 

Special commissions to “investigate” LAPD and provide “recommendations” are nothing new. Instead, they reflect the same failed oversight approach of the Police Commission, which was established in 1926. Over the last 50 years there have been several “independent” commissions established to investigate LAPD corruption, violence, conspiracies, and murder of predominantly Black and Brown people. After the Watts uprisings, Governor Pat Brown rushed to establish a commission. It was led by former CIA director John McCone. In the 1990s, the acquittal of officers who brutally beat Rodney King led to the Christopher Commission. Then in 2000, a Department of Justice investigation uncovered a pattern of unconstitutional corruption and racism at every level of LAPD. Now in 2020, we are given yet another “advisory” commission. 

Like the Police Commission, the singular purpose of these committees is acting as shock absorbers for an institution that constantly unleashes racial violence, lies, and killings of Black and Brown Angelenos.  Now Garcetti has the opportunity to appoint a new commissioner, following widespread community protests against LAPD violence. Yet again he refuses to engage the broader community for input. 

Though there is a continued presence at the Commission by community members led by Black Lives Matters-Los Angeles, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, and White People for Black Lives, each new appointee comes to the public’s surprise. William Briggs appears to have very little expertise in matters of policing, working primarily as a trial lawyer and litigator in the entertainment industry. Though Briggs publicly claimed his experience as a Black man inspired him to accept the role, he quickly extended an olive branch toward LAPD, echoing their commitment to reform to build community trust. 

Regardless, any reform Briggs might commit to would only be symbolic. Last Tuesday, the Commission voted to approve LAPD’s proposed budget of a $106 million budget increase for next year, with zero deliberation. Commissioner Bonner asked if the commissioners could adjust the budget in any way, and the commission president responded that the commission has no power to add or take away from the budget. The question confirmed that the commission was a powerless entity.  Garcetti participates in this facade and has appointed eight commissioners who can only sit and watch the LAPD’s budget and power grow unchecked year after year. 

This dedication to superficial reform is at the core of Garcetti’s approach to policing, more failing to acknowledge that police violence is a public health crisis. Every chance he gets, Garcetti refuses to shift the city’s priorities to what the people are demanding: defund the police.