From the NLG-LA Executive Board:
The local police union and certain Los Angeles City politicians and have asked city voters to adopt Charter Amendment C, asserting that the proposed amendment would increase police accountability. In reality, Charter Amendment C will ensure that police officers evade accountability for their misconduct and illegal practices. The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild strongly urges that voters reject the City’s cynical measure in the upcoming May 16 vote.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the nation’s first race and gender-inclusive bar association of attorneys, legal workers, law students, and jailhouse lawyers, has been at the forefront of the movement to hold police departments and officers accountable since its founding in 1937. Nationally and locally, our members have engaged in extensive advocacy to force departments and officers to cease discriminatory, abusive, and illegal practices, to change trainings and procedures to eliminate such abuses of power, and to adopt oversight mechanisms to ensure that departments and officers are held accountable for their failures and are responsive to the needs and concerns of the communities they serve. Through our involvement with community organizations, police misconduct scholars, and activist groups, we have learned what it takes to prevent police misconduct. Unfortunately, Charter Amendment C does nothing to address police misconduct and will actually prevent Los Angeles from holding offending officers accountable.
Charter Amendment C will make it easier for LAPD officers to terrorize Angelenos without consequence. At first glance, a civilian review board for police misconduct appears progressive, but in practice it will insulate offending officers from accountability. Currently, the 3-member Board of Rights includes two high-ranking police officials and one “civilian.” Sadly, this “civilian” is not a representative of the community and its interests. Rather, he is selected by the Executive Director of the Police Commission, and is usually a retired judge or prosecuting attorney with deep ties to the Police Department. Charter Amendment C would allow offending officers to have their discipline reviewed by 3 such “civilians.” This is precisely what offending officers want: studies have found that such concocted “civilian” review boards are in practice more lenient than review boards exclusively consisting of police officials. Thus, Charter Amendment C is a cynical proposal intended to deceive voters into believing that officers will be held accountable for their misconduct when city leaders and the police union know full-well that Charter Amendment C will expand the ability of offending officers to avoid accountability for their illegal, discriminatory, and violent behavior.
The current system for reviewing officer conduct is inadequate, but Charter Amendment C will enhance its inadequacies rather than cure them. Activists, community organizations, and scholars already know what it takes to step towards ending police misconduct and ensuring police accountability: The adoption of police commissions and review boards that are representative of the communities being served by the police departments, and with authority to enforce meaningful discipline. Los Angeles voters who want to end police misconduct and discriminatory policing, hold offending officers accountable when they engage in illegal and destructive practices, and mend the broken relationship between the LAPD and the communities it serves should reject the City’s cynical ploy and vote NO on Charter Amendment C.