Black community leaders, elected officials hold ‘Justice Matters’ dialogue with L.A. Mayor Garcetti, police and sheriff heads

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti participated in a “Justice Matters” dialogue with black community leaders and elected officials Thursday.

The event, which took place at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in L.A., came the day after Garcetti announced he would not increase the LAPD’s budget and would instead reinvest in communities of color.

Speakers included state assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove, L.A. city councilmember Herb Wesson, Pastor “J” Edgar Boyd, state Senator Holly Mitchell, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., chairman of Bakewell Medial, among others. Many of them expressed their frustration with the way police approach people of color.

“The job of law enforcement is to uphold the law. Well as black people, we realize that many of those laws are biased in and of themselves,” Mitchell said. “We have to figure out how we decide to transmit the responsibility of managing … social service challenges to law enforcement. That’s not their job.”

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was in attendance, said he wants to “hire Black Lives Matter people to become deputies” and to serve their communities.

He said he believes the justice system values property rights over human life.

“The criminal justice system was built a long long time ago… by people of affluence to promote and protect property rights,” Villanueva said. “And that system, the legacy that is what we have today to this very moment: we do not value human life.”

After facing scrutiny this week for saying George Floyd’s death is on the hands of looters and later apologizing, LAPD Chief Michel Moore took on a different rhetoric.

“The four officers are responsible for the death of that man. But their department, my department, our department of policing has a role in what is going on today on the streets,” he said, adding that the LAPD has “as much a membership in this as any Minneapolis police department.”

Moore also said reforms are needed, including that officers who are fired should not be able to be hired by other police agencies.

Mayor Garcetti also spoke and expanded on the new Department of Civil and Human Rights that he announced Wednesday, saying it will have an office of racial equity within it.

“This is a place where you can bring your complaints and actually get money for the discrimination that you face. This has to be material,” he said.

The mayor went on to say that changes must be made on a national level as well, going on to call President Donald Trump “a political pyromaniac who will use tear gas for a photo-op with a Bible in front of a church.”

As community leaders expressed their frustrations and their plans on making change, Danny J. Bakewel, Sr., whose company holds the L.A. Sentinel newspaper, talked about factors to consider as they move forward.

“We used to say they have their foot on our neck. Well, they took their foot off, but they put their knee on. We want them to also take their knee off of our economic neck, off our educational neck, off of our business neck,” he said. “As we go forward, this cannot be a one dimensional process. We could not just be talking about the police department physically killing us.”

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