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Should a White Prosecutor With Ties To Law Enforcement Be On The LA Police Civilian Oversight Board?

No? No.

Eileen Decker, former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Mayor, was approved by City Council last week to become the newest Police Commissioner. (photo from LA Times)

The Los Angeles Police Commission has a new commissioner. This past Wednesday, Mayor Garcetti’s appointee Eileen Decker breezed through the Public Safety Committee at City Council on her way to a full Council confirmation. Decker will sit for the first time at this Tuesday’s Police Commission meeting, taking the place of Commission Vice President Matt Johnson, who stepped down earlier this month. But who is she?

For almost 15 years, Decker was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, including as head of the national security division. Most recently, from 2015 to 2017, she was the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. In between stints as a federal prosecutor, from 2009 to 2015, Decker served as a Deputy Mayor to both former Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa as well as Garcetti, overseeing public safety and homeland security issues.

All five Police Commissioners are civilian appointees of the Mayor, tasked with the oversight of the Los Angeles Police Department. One would expect for community representation and objectivity to be central tenets of a civilian oversight board. But historically, and continuing non-stop under Garcetti, the LA Police Commission serve simply as a rubber stamp approval body, defending and enabling the targeted harassment and criminalization of LA’s Black, brown and poor communities by the LAPD. Eileen Decker, a white former prosecutor and police advocate, seems to fit that mold perfectly.

When Decker became Deputy Mayor in 2009, she said the biggest challenge would be to “maintain the level of police force and working with our budget issues to maintain that high level of security and protection that the people in the city of Los Angeles want.” It’s unclear where Decker obtained her information about what the city wanted from the LAPD, and who wanted it. Since at least 2009, the Los Angeles Police Department has led all US police departments in the number of people killed in shootings almost every year, with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department a close second. In 2015, during her time as US Attorney, Decker brought the “Violence Reduction Network” to Compton, a Department of Justice program which enabled the LA Sheriff’s Department’s Compton Station to “strategically partner with Justice Department components on intelligence gathering, sharing, warrants service and major operations.”

Donta Taylor was shot and killed by LA Sheriff’s deputies in Compton in 2016. (photo from Wave Newspapers)

The LA Sheriff’s Department has a long history of racist cliques of deputies, from the Vikings, Regulators, Grim Reapers, Rattlesnakes and the Jump Out Boys operating out of various Sheriff’s stations to the 2000 Boys and 3000 Boys within Men’s Central Jail. Allegations of new racist deputy cliques operating out of the Compton Sheriff’s station have arisen since this partnership with the DOJ was announced in 2015. Two deputies have been accused of racially-motivated violence against African-American Compton residents, including the January 2016 beating and tasing of Sheldon Lockett, and the shooting death months later of Donta Taylor, who deputies claim was armed, despite an extensive search never producing a gun. One of the deputies, Samuel Aldama, has admitted having a specific skull tattoo that matches those of 10 to 20 other deputies associated with the Compton station.

As U.S. Attorney, Decker was responsible for administering grant money from the DOJ’s Countering Violent Extremism program. Despite her former boss Mayor Garcetti’s best efforts to bring $470,000 dollars in this grant money to Los Angeles as part of its pilot program, it was ultimately unsuccessful. The Countering Violent Extremism program (CVE) would target Black, Muslim, and other communities historically targeted and labeled as “extremist” and was successfully blocked in an effort led by local grassroots organizations including the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Palestinian Youth Movement, Black Students Union, Immigrant Youth Coalition, and Vigilant Love.

Decker’s background as a white prosecutor and longtime police booster seems antithetical to the type of civilian representation people would expect on a board tasked with oversight of the police department of the second largest city in the country. However, for Garcetti’s Police Commission — whose collusion with the LAPD has led to an expansion of the surveilling, targeting, and criminalizing of our most marginalized communities, as well as the continued rubber stamping of a level of violence unmatched by any other US police force — Eileen Decker seems to be the perfect fit.

Adam Smith is an organizer with 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