LOS ANGELES -- After protests and demonstrations that involved vandalism and looting after the death of George Floyd, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti revealed a plan to cut up to $150 million in funding from the L.A. Police Department and redirect that money to communities of color.
Rob Harris, a director on the board of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, tells Inside the Issues he and his colleagues are not only concerned about the proposed budget cuts but the manner in which the plans were announced.
“I think what we saw out of the mayor and out of [City] Council President [Nury] Martinez was just the absolute antithesis of leadership. Good leaders unite people, good leaders exercise ownership, they solve problems and they did none of that,” he said. “Instead, what they chose to do was communicate with us, hide behind a tweet, and then point their finger at the very officers who are standing on the line right now, battered and bruised, trying to hold this city together.”
According to Harris, the budget cuts are “pandering to a small group of people” and is a move that tells officers “they are the problem within Los Angeles.”
“You saw police chiefs and rank-and-file police officers come out and condemn the actions that we saw in the death of Mr. Floyd,” Harris said. “We have all admitted that was an injustice and a travesty, but the way that we move forward to restore trust and to foster respect is to not do the political move, the cowardly move that we saw the mayor and [City] Council President Nury Martinez do.”
As far as the LAPD’s history with excessive use of force and racism, Harris said mistakes in law enforcement are unavoidable.
“I don't think it's any secret that as long as we're recruiting officers from the human race, that we're going to have officers who make mistakes, and who act outside of the policies and the guidelines of the department,” he said.
“Our use-of-force policy is the strongest policy in the United States. We have codified the duty to intercede, we have early warning systems in place to help identify problem officers, so the pillars of reform that we hear being talked about across the nation with police departments — Los Angeles Police Department has already been doing for at least 10 years," he continued.
He said Los Angeles has an “early warning system” in place to identify problem officers.
“It keeps track of an officer's complaints, uses of force [and] pursuits. It compares that information to other officers in that peer group and if a threshold is met, an action item is generated, and a supervisor is required to look at that, investigate it and then decide what's the appropriate actions that we need to take,” he explained.
Harris said the solution is not in defunding police departments, but rather in instituting a national use-of-force policy, so there is a standard across the board.
“I think all agencies absolutely need to have a duty to intercede and that is codified in our policies here in Los Angeles,” he said, in reference to the three officers who are accused of aiding and abetting in the death of Floyd.
Harris said they would like a chance to be heard in light of the recent events and have a change to shape the decisions made regarding their department.
“I think the Los Angeles Police Department, the policies that we have in place, can really begin to build trust and bridge the gaps in the wake of this, if we have the opportunity to allow the Los Angeles Police Protective League to be at the table as a representative of rank-and-file officers,” he said. “Our concern was less about the fiscal impact of this and more about the philosophical root that drove them to make the decision to release that budget proposal. That’s what we had a hard time with.”
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