Los Angeles Mayor F**ks The Police
After George Floyd's brutal killing by supposed peace keepers, people have demanded police reform. I admit I expected most politicians would say a lot of pretty words and announce commissions to convene committees, but they'd never actually buck the police. However, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti surprised me and delivered more than just words.
The mayor announced during his press conference Wednesday that he's not increasing the police budget. That's a big deal in itself because the police always want more money for tear gas, flashbang grenades, and other deescalation tools. The LAPD was set to have its war chest boosted from $1.189 billion to $1.86 billion for 2020/2021. That's a lot of Star Destroyers. The plan included a seven percent spending increase for the department and $41 million in raises and bonuses. (There are roughly 10,000 police officers in the city.) Activists cried foul, especially after the COVID-19-related budget crisis, but the George Floyd protests have caused the mayor to stop and listen.
He might've also been spurred to action when Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore suggested that time-traveling looters were “as much responsible" for George Floyd's death as the cops who actually killed him. Garcetti insisted that Moore didn't mean to morally equate knocking over a CVS with murdering an innocent man, even one who's black. Moore later said he “misspoke" after kinda saying he meant it. But if Moore's public Daryl Gates moment embarrassed Garcetti enough to inspire a quick policy response, all the better.
Garcetti also issued a moratorium on putting people in the "super secret" gang data base, which has been under investigation since it was revealed a black teen was placed in the database who had no gang affiliations. The mayor will even push for so-called "good cops" to break the vaunted "thin blue line" and actually report bad actors.
GARCETTI: We need to make a firm commitment to change, not just with words but with action.
Garcetti announced that he's not just canceling Cop Christmas. He's slashing $250 million from the proposed budget and redistributing the funds to communities of color "so we can invest in jobs, in education and healing." It's black Robin Hood!
LA Police Commission President Eileen Decker declared that $100 million to $150 million of those cuts would come from the police department budget. L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez introduced the motion yesterday to reduce the LAPD's funding "as we reset our priorities in the wake of the murder of George Floyd." Yes, she said “murder."
Best of all, the Police Commission will use an independent prosecutor -- outside the district attorney's office -- to investigate police conduct. Prosecutors who rely on the police to do their jobs were often wary of pissing them off. This eliminates that conflict.
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League — a fancy name for
goon squad “police union" — predictably claimed, without evidence, that thinning the LAPD's gravy train would leave neighborhoods vulnerable to crime. It sounds like he's running a protection racket. Where's the data that crime was set to increase seven percent in the coming year?
Lally argued that without the planned fat raises and bonuses, the city would experience "slower responses to 911 calls, stalled investigations and fewer officers" responding to calls for backup. Maybe I'm cynical but it sound like he's threatening a work slow down. Public school budgets are also in jeopardy thanks to COVID-19. So Lally can go cry himself a river.
It's telling that Lally believes not feeding the police like it's Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors is a "dream come true for gang members and criminals." You can't fix problems in our urban communities by busting heads, no matter what Bruce Wayne might think.
Ground Game LA, one of the groups involved in the People's Budget LA coalition, has proposed reducing the police budget by a whopping 90 percent. That's not just “abolish the police" hippie talk. The group argues that we should invest instead in more "tenants' rights workers, mental health counselors, gang intervention workers and others who could address pressing social needs." We currently expect the police to handle any disturbance that's not literally on fire, and they aren't sufficiently trained for most issues more complex than “identify bad guy, beat the crap out them." That seems harsh, but how many mentally ill people do the police have to kill before we get the point? Last year, police shot a black woman in her own home in front of her nephew while responding to a wellness check. Mental health counselors — who don't have guns — could've best addressed this issue.
Lally declared, as most cops in his position do, that if you don't shower cops with cash for bigger guns "the last several nights of mayhem in Los Angeles will be the new normal." Police are either trained or just naturally inclined to view the entire world as a war zone. They actually believe over-policing is the only response to protests against over policing. The “mayhem" Lally describes wouldn't have occurred if the police hadn't killed George Floyd during an arrest for a fake $20. The IRS could've handled that issue with more positive outcomes. The police refuse to concede how often they make situations worse. They are the Charlie Sheen of dispute resolution: They have one speed, “Go!"
As Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents parts of South Los Angeles, noted “lack of police isn't the problem."
GARCETTI: We can't walk to the promised land in a single day but this is a start.
You can't walk anywhere in Los Angeles, but nonetheless, I appreciate Garcetti's efforts. The cops won't be happy, which means the initiatives might prove effective.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).