Last week, as protests against police violence took place across the country and “defund the police” became a rallying cry, L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez pledged to cut funding to the LAPD. Martinez, who was named council president in December, plans to slash up to $150 million from the budget of the nation’s second-largest police department, which is currently $1.86 billion. “We cannot talk about change, we have to be about change,” she tweeted.
Five days later, it came out that the LAPD had been providing 24-hour security outside of Martinez’s home for the previous two months. Natalie Brunnell, a reporter for Spectrum News 1 Los Angeles, went there and interviewed several of the officers who have been part of the detail providing protection to Martinez and her family in 12-hour shifts since April. The same day Martinez’s office caught wind of the report, the security detail came to an end. A Martinez spokesman later defended the detail, saying his boss and her daughter had received death threats. LAPD Detective Jamie McBride, a leader of the police union representing 10,000 L.A. cops, told Brunnell, “If she was really feeling threatened, then that security detail should [still] be in place.”
Tabloids like the Daily Mail and the New York Post played up the sanctimony, the right-wing Daily Caller piled on, and Fox News talking head Tucker Carlson mocked Martinez with the chyron, “Police for me, but none for thee.”
With anti-police brutality protests continuing to rock the nation, the desire to convey solidarity to protesters has pushed liberal lawmakers into theatrics. On the same day as the proposed LAPD budget cut, Democratic leaders in Congress introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 by kneeling draped in kente-cloth stoles indigenous to the Asante kingdom in present-day Ghana. In Los Angeles, the anti-racist eruption has thrust council members into the unenviable position of challenging the forces of law and order that helped get many of them elected to office in the first place.
There are city officials embracing calls to #DefundthePolice who have accepted big donations from the Los Angeles Police Protective League in the past. These include members, such as Martinez and District 13 Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who had cops stand guard outside their private residences after protesters showed up at night in cars calling for increased renter protections from the COVID-19 economic fallout.
Councilman David Ryu—who a recent campaign mailer billed as “the choice of law enforcement”—claims he has had qualms about the LAPD’s budget taking up 53 percent of the city’s general fund revenue, since before the death of George Floyd. One supporter of Ryu’s challenger in the Council District 4, Nithya Raman, called the claim “a lie.”
Here David Ryu claims that he’s “clearly stated” the LAPD shouldn’t get a budget increase since April. @davideryu, can you produce one public statement saying that before the rest of the council moved on it in June?
— Hayes Davenport (@hayesdavenport) June 10, 2020
Of the 15 current members of the Los Angeles council, at least 11 have received campaign support from the LAPPL, city records show. And new priorities aside, the union isn’t about to let them forget it.
On the day after the proposal was introduced to cut funding to the LAPD, union members accosted District 7 Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez at a command post in Panorama City. A video of the event shows an LAPD sergeant and union leader named Jarretta Sandoz berating the councilwoman for “pandering” to Black Lives Matter, while officers applaud and cheer in agreement. “If it wasn’t for them,” Sandoz says, pointing to officers in the room, “this city would be burnt down right now.’
Rodriguez, whose district covers much of the northeastern San Fernando Valley, accepted more than $100,000 from the LAPPL when she ran for office in 2017.
Relations between the police union and Mayor Eric Garcetti have been touch and go since the LAPPL spent $1.5 million in an unsuccessful effort to defeat him when he first ran for the top office in 2013. But in April, when Garcetti first released his budget proposal for next year, it contained a 7 percent spending increase for the LAPD, including a generous package of raises and bonuses for the rank and file. That was before the recent wave of protests, when Black Lives Matter Los Angeles led more than a thousand people to the doorstep of the Getty Mansion, the mayor’s official residence.
In a major reversal, Garcetti now endorses the City Council’s proposal to shave $150 million from the LAPD. He has earmarked $250 million to be shifted from various departments to fund youth jobs, health initiatives, and “peace centers” to heal trauma, and will allow those who have suffered discrimination to collect damages, the L.A. Times reports.
His about-face on the LAPD’s budget has infuriated the police union. On June 5, the league lashed out against the mayor in a statement calling Garcetti “deranged.” At issue was a remark the mayor made during a speech the previous day at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, referring to police as “killers.” Garcetti stood by the remark, which he said had been taken out of context. The full Garcetti quote reads, “[Reform] starts someplace, and we say we are going to be who we want to be, or we’re going to continue being the killers that we are.”
“Eric,” replied McBride of the league in a statement, “do you really believe that Los Angeles police officers are killers? The same officers that provide you 24-hour security at your residence 365 days a year? … The same officers you sent to address your failure to get homelessness under control? I don’t think so.”
Hundreds of people calling into a recent city budget committee hearing called for cuts to the LAPD budget as deep as 90 percent. But it still remains to be seen if the league can peel away support for the far more moderate police budget-cut proposal of $150 million.
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