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LA’s Past, Present, and Future Diverge on Police Accountability

The new mayor “bungled her first on public safety,” the old council president pushed to get cops off traffic stops, and the new controller took aim at LAPD’s helicopter habit.

Tiffany Haddish speaking at a City Council meeting.
Tiffany Haddish stopped by City Hall to honor former council president Herb Wesson on Wednesday of last week. (Youtube/LA City Clerk)
Meet the New Cop, Same as the Old Cop

Chief of police Michel Moore will continue to run the nation’s third largest police force. On Tuesday, behind closed doors, the police commission approved Moore’s request for an extension. Following that meeting, Mayor Karen Bass made public a letter she’d sent the commission the day before, supporting his reappointment.

Bass’ support letter indicated a list of expectations, including “mental health training for all officers,” a plan to increase mental health response within LAPD, collaboration with the manufacturer of Tasers, and work to increase recruitment and further civilianize the force.

The LA Times’ editorial board described the reappointment as Bass’s first test on public safety. Their take? She bungled it

“You Have Motions that Deal with Traffic Stops. Have that Conversation.”

Shortly after the mayor made Moore pinky swear to increase LAPD’s capacity for mental health response, the council took the occasion of the first day of Black History Month to honor its first Black president, Herb Wesson. After being celebrated by Tiffany Haddish (not kidding) and surprised by the official renaming of his old smoking spot in his honor (also not kidding), Wesson used his moment in the spotlight to advocate for the City to get moving on getting cops off traffic stops. 

After detailing how his own driver’s education doubled as a grave lesson in self-preservation, he spoke of his grandson’s impending sixteenth birthday:

“I’m gonna also tell him: when you get stopped, ‘cause you will, you put both hands on the wheel. You move slowly. You treat the officers respectfully. If you’re mad you never show it. If you as a Council really, really wanna do something, help me ensure that my grandson’s sons don’t have to get that lesson.”

Wesson refers to legislation in progress — passed in the summer of 2020, but moving very slowly — to explore unarmed alternatives to the present system of relying on cops to enforce traffic law. Black Lives Matter-LA has been vocal in support for the motion in the wake of Keenan Anderson’s killing by an LAPD officer. 

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s office told Knock LA that the next step is the completion of the LA Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) report on the subject. (Harris-Dawson is one of the legislation’s cosponsors.) LADOT in turn told Knock LA to expect the report’s publication in “spring.”

Harris-Dawson filed another motion last week, with Councilmember Tim McOsker, asking for reports on where the City is with unarmed response programs, what’s been working and not working, and what sort of funding and support would be necessary to establish the proposed Office of Unarmed Response and Safety.
Getting to the Choppers

It may be that the least popular entity in Los Angeles, across the political spectrum and demographics, is the LAPD helicopter. This week, the new controller Kenneth Mejia announced that his team would be looking into the cost and efficacy of the department’s helicopter use. Mejia says the public can expect the report this summer. 

The Week Ahead: Showdown at the Ad Hoc Corral on City Governance Reform

LA has an ordinance that governs municipal lobbying. It was adopted in 1994, and according to one motion, hasn’t been “comprehensively” updated since then. 

“The City Council took no action in response to [attempts in 2007 and 2018 to overhaul and update the ordinance] however, allowing them to simply expire,” the motion, introduced by Councilmember Nithya Raman, continues. 

Today, we’ll find out whether this time is different. Raman’s motion to overhaul and tighten ethics rules around lobbying will be considered in the Ad Hoc City Governance Reform Committee this afternoon. The proposal enjoys the support of 45 neighborhood councils. 

That committee will also take up dueling approaches on redistricting: essentially, should the City establish an independent redistricting commission, or should the state take over? Raman and Council President Krekorian opt for the former, but Councilmembers Rodriguez and Price have a competing proposal also under consideration supporting the latter.

Also, on Wednesday, Council will consider a motion directing Water & Power (LADWP) to report back to Council on risks and alternatives to the controversial Scattergood generator project.