Members of the local Black Lives Matter organization today criticized Mayor Eric Garcetti’s selection of Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michel Moore as the department’s new chief, saying he is too closely tied with the department’s “old school culture” and that policies he has promoted contributed to biased policing.
The group, which has been critical of outgoing Chief Charlie Beck and the department in regard to police shootings in minority communities, held a demonstration outside LAPD Headquarters and also spoke out during a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners.
Garcetti was given three finalists to choose from by the board, the civilian body that oversees the LAPD. They were Moore, San Francisco Police Chief William “Bill” Scott and Deputy LAPD Chief Robert Arcos. Moore has been with the department since 1981.
“This is all pun intended, it’s more of the same. Michel Moore, from our perspective, is another Chief Daryl Gates sort of trained officer within the LAPD that sort of still holds on to this old-school culture that Los Angeles doesn’t need,” Pete White of Black Lives Matter and the Los Angeles Community Action Network told City News Service.
Gates led the department from 1978-92. He is reviled by many modern Los Angeles leaders for a tenure seen as institutionally racist and militaristic, culminating in the 1991 beating of Rodney King by four LAPD personnel and the 1992 riots.
“Coming from the tough cop mentality of the Daryl Gates era, the tough cop mentality is just not where we’re at when we think about policing and the tensions between police and communities of color,” White said.
After Garcetti introduced Moore on Monday as his choice to lead the department, Moore first mentioned building trust in communities of color as a top priority, but the opposition of Black Lives Matter to his appointment shows he will have some work to do to win over the group, which has for the last few years held demonstrations over police shootings while also being a regular presence at the Police Commission meetings.
White said Moore’s reputation as a data expert, and the data-driven policies he promoted in the LAPD, have led to the justification of over-policing in minority communities. He also said Moore’s previous position in charge of the SWAT team gave him a mentality of “take charge, ‘let’s take communities back’ element of the police department.”
During his news conference, Garcetti said he was not looking to fill any demographic or “make history” with his selection of chief, only that he wanted the best person for the job. But from the moment Beck announced in January that he would be retiring this month, the selection was laced with issues of race, ethnicity and gender.
Councilman Joe Buscaino openly lobbied for a woman to be named chief, while Councilman Gil Cedillo said Arcos, a Latino, was the right choice in the era of President Donald Trump’s aggressive actions on illegal immigration. Some South Los Angeles activists lobbied for Scott, who is black. In the end Garcetti chose Moore, whose father is Basque and is listed as a Hispanic on the department’s rosters.
“The most important question of the moment may be, why do I want to be the next chief of police of this great city?” Moore said. “And it’s pretty simple. I wish to continue to momentum of building trust, particularly in communities of color, and improving public safety while we build a more diverse and representative department.”
Garcetti said Moore had the right approach on issues of immigration and civil rights.
“I’ve seen him work with difficult issues, whether it is with impounding cars and working with the immigrant community and his strong commitment to civil rights,” Garcetti said. “I’ve seen his work personally. No one works harder. No one reads more. And no one has a greater breadth of experience.”
White said Black Lives Matter had not lobbied for any particular candidate.
“We stayed out, primarily because we knew that irrespective of who wound up in the chief’s seat there would still be a lot of work to do, in terms of policy, in terms of hiring, in terms of who’s calling the shots, and the systematic approach to who is calling the shots. The chief doesn’t work alone,” Moore said.
Black Lives Matter also pointed to two shootings Moore was involved in during the 1980s as a young officer.
“#MichelMoore shot a South LA resident in 1985 and killed someone in 1986. As assistant chief he was part of the ‘leadership’ that made LAPD the most murderous police department in the nation,” the group said on Twitter.
Moore was cleared by the LAPD in both shootings from any wrongdoing while also being given its Medal of Valor after he shot and killed a suspect who had killed his wife with a semi-automatic rifle in a parking lot in 1986 before pointing the weapon at Moore, according to the Los Angeles Times.
White first characterized the shootings as “questionable” but later corrected himself when asked what was questionable about them.
“I’m not thinking questionable, I’m thinking more of a warrior-type mentality. I wasn’t there. It would be interesting if I could live 50 more years to see the stories about who was shot today,” he said.
He added, “It is fair to look at the history of leaders, and if it’s a leader of City Council or the leader of the United States of America or the police department. So I do think it’s fair to evaluate what that leader has done,” White said. “I do believe that it is important to look at all the things the candidate has done.”
Garcetti’s appointment of Moore will need to be confirmed by the City Council.