The Inglewood City Council recently called a special meeting on recent officer-involved shootings (OIS)-Inglewood police have shot and killed four men in the last four months. The meeting was at 2:30 in the afternoon on 24-hour notice, virtually ensuring a low turnout. Given community outrage over the killings, an afternoon meeting was a slap in residents' faces-most-people work days and could not attend, even had they known about it, which is unlikely because of such short notice. It served to discourage, rather than promote, greater civic engagement and transparency, the Council's purported objectives.
Many people hoped that Kevin Wicks' death-he was the third victim of the four serial shootings-was a wake-up call. Whether it was for the residents remains to be seen; whether for the mayor and city council is unlikely in light of their continuing self-serving, myopic decisions. (Only three made it to the meeting and were only able to speak after waiting three-and-a-half hours for the council to reconvene following executive session. So much for civic engagement and transparency!
At the special meeting, September 4–the City Council issued an eagerly awaited statement on the officer-involved shootings. It directed the Police Chief, City Administrator and City Attorney to take immediate steps to evaluate and implement, if necessary, a sweeping training program for officers, department-wide. The eight officers involved in killing Eddie Felix Franco, the fourth shooting victim, will not be returned to patrol duties without Council approval.
This is commendable, but other factors, scarcely mentioned, are just as important. For example, an Inglewood police code of silence undoubtedly includes tacit approval of so-called rogue cops-often indistinguishable from their colleagues. Dismantling this widely supported practice should be a top council priority. Also, new, more stringent officer recruitment criteria is extremely important but usually glossed over in police reform efforts. Any would-be officer who is unaware, unconcerned, or insensitive to the concerns of Inglewood residents–overwhelmingly Black and Latino–has no business there and should not be hired.
The Council's statement notes that officer involved shootings do raise important questions and community concerns about Inglewood police, especially in the use of force. "…We will continue to aggressively seek up-dates from the Chief regarding the latest training possible…" Shouldn't the City Council direct the Chief to provide such updates, rather than seek them? Chief Seabrooks was also directed to inform the Council of the Office of Independent Review (OIR) findings. But all findings should go directly to the Council–they hired OIR.
On September 11, a local newspaper reported that the Inglewood City Council issued a statement during its September 9th meeting, acknowledging that video cameras had recorded Eddie Felix Franco being shot (approximately 47 rounds fired) by seven Inglewood police officers. That's not true. The statement was not issued during that meeting, but immediately afterwards, again making a mockery of transparency.
Current investigations of Inglewood Police shootings are reportedly underway by the District Attorney, OIR, and administratively. In addition, requests for U.S. Attorney and State Attorney General Investigations of the police Department have been made.
The Chair of the Inglewood's Citizens Police Oversight Commission says it will recommend that the City Council provide it separate legal counsel; it has also formed an ad-hoc committee to make recommendations amending the city ordinance to clarify the commission's authority and responsibilities.
Immediate and long-range priorities should include: changes in officer recruitment criteria, regular updates from OIR, made available to the public, an independent citizen-police oversight body, (Contrary to the mayor's claim, an OIR recommendation is not needed for the Council to take such an action), and additional dialogue sessions allowing maximum opportunity for residents to express their concerns.
Ineffective leadership by Inglewood's mayor and city council exacerbate outrage and contentiousness surrounding the police shootings; the council appears to listen, but often doesn't respond to community concerns. Hiring OIR is a step in the right direction, but OIR can only make recommendations–the city council alone is entrusted with policy-making and oversight responsibility for all departments, including the police department. The mayor's claim that the Council must accept OIR's recommendations is ludicrous.
Inglewood residents too are derelict by failing to hold their public officials accountable. They must no longer give them a blank check for decisions at times, inimical to the community's best interests. The mayor and city council have long tended to ignore, and/or minimize constituents' concerns. And even though the city currently lacks courageous, ethical and moral leadership, the people must now demand no less from its elected and appointed officials.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.