LA mayor, city leaders call for cuts to police funding

Police Commission President Eileen Decker said their civilian oversight committee will be seeking up to $150 million in cuts from the LAPD budget


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joins pastors and marchers outside LAPD Headquarters during a demonstration demanding justice for George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Image: Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP

Los Angeles Daily News
Elizabeth Chou

LOS ANGELES — With calls to reduce police spending circulating among protesters who have taken to the streets to protest police brutality, several powerful Los Angeles city leaders on Wednesday called for the scaling back of the Los Angeles Police Department budget.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in his briefing that he has called on top city budget advisers to find $250 million in cuts to the city budget, “so we can invest in jobs, and health and education and healing.”

Police Commission President Eileen Decker said that their civilian oversight committee will be seeking $100 million to $150 million in cuts from the LAPD budget itself.

Garcetti said funding would be directed to benefit the black community, adding that “racial justice is something worth fighting for, and something worth sacrificing.”

Garcetti also said there will be a moratorum on putting names of people into the CalGang database. California’s attorney general said his office will review how the Los Angeles Police Department has been using the state’s CalGang database, after some officers last year were found to have been falsifying information about innocent people and labeling them as gang members.

Decker, who joined the mayor Wednesday evening, said the civilian oversight board “is listening” and said they are “establishing an aggressive reform agenda.”

“But we must do more,” she said. Decker said there will be a “review and revision of the police department budget.” They will be hunting for $100 million to $150 million in cuts. She also will “advocate for change to the city charter regarding the discipline of officers.”

The police commission on Tuesday heard from hundreds of people, many of whom called for the firing of police Chief Michel Moore and for more accountability demanded of officers who use deadly force on members of the public.

The demonstration of the last few days have been transformative for the people of Los Angeles, for California and for our nation,” Decker said Wednesday.

This came hours after Council President Nury Martinez and four other members of the 15-person City Council called for the police department budget to be slashed by between $100 million and $150 million.

This proposal came as the council has been under pressure from activists to shift city funding away from the police department and to other programs, such as those that help keep people housed, communities safe and provide aid and assistance to those who are financially challenged.

The campaign precedes the protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died from asphyxiation after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. But amid outrage directed toward police department practices nationwide, efforts by Los Angeles activists, many of them part of LA’s Black Lives Matters chapter, have picked up steam.

Martinez said in a statement Wednesday that the “peaceful marches and demonstrations” in Los Angeles and around the country “represent one important step, today’s legislation another.”

If we are going to finally end the sin of racism and all of its illogical, dehumanizing and sometimes deadly consequences, including in our police department, then we have to provide real solutions for real people who need our assistance,” Martinez said.

As more attention is paid to how leaders and law enforcement officials have responded across the country, LA’s police officers and Garcetti have taken to kneeling during protests. But some involved in the local protests, such as organizers with LA’s Black Lives Matter chapter, have called those gestures empty and symbolic.

On Tuesday, when Garcetti kneeled among protesters, he also hinted at taking another look at the LAPD budget, which has been preserved, despite cuts to other departments. The police department’s budget also includes raises and bonuses approved last summer for officers.

The motion, and Garcetti’s recent statements around such steps, came after an eight-hour-long police commission meeting Tuesday during which hundreds of people called for Chief Michel Moore’s firing. Garcetti said he stood by the chief, in comments during Tuesday’s briefing.

Activists aren’t only calling just for the rolling back of the LAPD budget. A survey done as part of a campaign, known as the People’s Budget, found there was interest in more city spending on the issues of housing security, mental health and wellness and public health and healthcare. And it calls for spending funds on categories such as “universal aid and crisis management,” “built environment” and “reimagined community safety.”

That campaign is the most well known amount other related calls to “defund LAPD” or reduce police spending that could now be heard among protesters.

Another set of groups that include Community Coalition in South LA and InnerCity Struggle on LA’s Eastside sent a letter to Garcetti Wednesday calling for the LAPD budget to be reduced by at least $250 million.

The letter was also broadly critical of Garcetti’s response to the protests, with those signing it stating that “… under your (the mayor’s) leadership, the city chose to further escalate tension and police violence by allowing officers to tear gas and beat grieving but peaceful demonstrators, calling in the National Guard and enacting citywide curfews with little warning and leaving hard-working Angelenos stranded.

“These decisions have not only played into the hands of the monstrous response by the White House for further repression and violence against Americans, but have deepened the hurt and mistrust within Black, Indigenous and people of color communities,” the letter said.

Black Lives Matter Los Angeles is not among the groups that signed this letter.

The Los Angeles police officers union issued a response Tuesday to the People’s Budget campaign, which is directly being backed by LA’s Black Lives Matter chapter.

The People’s Budget would allocate 5.72% of the city budget to police and law enforcement, and 24.22% to a category labeled “reimagined community safety.” The campaign says right now the LAPD budget is more than half of the mayor’s proposed city budget for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1.

The union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, says this could mean laying off most officers, saying in their statement that “the quickest way to make our neighborhoods more dangerous is to recklessly eliminate police officers as advocated for …” by supporters of the People’s Budget.

Next: Local leaders are rethinking the meaning of public safety