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#MeToo, Sexual Assault and the Los Angeles Police Commission

Asking the questions about big donations.

The Board of Police Commissioners meet every Tuesday at LAPD headquarters. photo by Adam Smith

On Sunday night, the 90th Academy Awards were held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the first Oscars since the #MeToo movement exploded last summer amid allegations of sexual harassment and rape against film producer Harvey Weinstein by actresses Rose McGowan, Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino and others. In November, the office of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey created a task force to investigate this case and others within the entertainment industry. Following the Weinstein allegations and his subsequent tumble from grace, many other survivors have come forward, including actor Terry Crews, who alleges that William Morris Endeavor talent agent Adam Venit sexually assaulted him at a party in 2016. In late 2017, the LAPD opened an investigation.

Adam Venit sits on the board of the Los Angeles Police Foundation, which is described on their website as:

“…an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides critical resources and vital support to the Los Angeles Police Department. From essential equipment and state-of-the-art technology to specialized training and innovative programs that would otherwise be unfunded, the funding we provide directly improves public safety, impacts officer readiness, and enhances our quality of life.”

The LAPF donates millions of dollars per year to the LAPD in funds and equipment through the Los Angeles Police Commission. The Police Commission is made up of five members, who are appointed by the Mayor to serve as the civilian head of the police department. At a normal meeting of the Police Commission, the commissioners vote on whether or not to approve items on that weeks agenda. Almost every week this includes donations from the Los Angeles Police Foundation. The majority of these donations, which come through the Commission as consent agenda items, are approved outside the purview of normal city budget oversight. In 2018 alone, there has already been well over $200,000 in approved donations from the LAPF by the Police Commission.

As the Police Commission is the civilian oversight head of the LAPD, it’s troubling that these donations are allowed to continue to pour in to the police department, all while a member of the board of the foundation donating the funds has been under investigation by the LAPD for alleged sexual assault. In January, the Police Commission approved a donation from the LAPF for a drone, as part of the LAPD’s controversial 1-year drone pilot program that was approved by the Police Commission in October 2017 despite fierce opposition from the community.

At Tuesday morning’s LA City Council meeting, council members will vote on whether or not to approve this drone donation from the Los Angeles Police Foundation. But is it not a conflict of interest for the Police Commission to continue to approve donations, including these pieces of military equipment, from the LAPF? Should this even be in front of the City Council? In the reports approved by the Police Commission for each donation, there is a disclaimer that reads in part:

“No expressed or implied commitments or promises were made to the donor or representatives of the donor. The donor will not receive any preferential treatment, endorsement, or recommendation…”

But with a person with so much to lose helping to fund a police department with so much to gain,

How can we be sure?

Adam Smith is a member of White People 4 Black Lives.

White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL) is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.awarela.org