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Community Demands Answers at Second LAPD African American Forum
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Staff Writer
Published August 5, 2021

LAPD hosted a Zoom meeting of the African American Forum on July 28. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

 

 

LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore faced hard questions at the second African American Forum with community and faith leaders sponsored by the agency on Wednesday, July 28.

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Specifically, the audience sought an explanation about the lack of discipline of the police officer who distributed a tasteless meme mocking the death of George Floyd, said Pastor Shep Crawford of Experience Christian Ministries, who moderated the gathering.

 

Responding to the inquiry, Moore stressed that he recommended the firing of the responsible officer, however, the officer appealed that discipline to the Board of Rights, an administrative group traditionally comprised of two captains or above and a civilian.

 

“An ordinance passed two years ago by the City Council allows an officer to select three civilians instead to hear the appeal.  The officer is given the ability to defend him-or-herself and can have an attorney,” Moore said. “Essentially, it’s a trial where the Department presents its case and the defense presents its case.”

LAPD Chief of Police Michel Moore (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

 

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After the presentation, the panel deliberates and announce their decision and provide the rationale for the verdict. According to the charter, the chief cannot increase the penalty if the person is found guilty or take any further action against the officer if he or she is deemed not guilty.  Also, state law prohibits Moore from identifying the officer because personnel records are considered confidential.

 

In the case of the meme, the Board of Rights found the officer not guilty, Moore said. “Their rationale was they took his statements at face value that he did not mean to insult or defame, but was sending the meme to a command staff to report potential misconduct.  So, they found him not guilty – not innocent, but not guilty.”

 

Clearly dissatisfied, Crawford insisted, “We’re not done with this. We understand that you can only do so much, but the community is not done with that one.

 

“We want it to be clear that we’re here representing the community and at the end of the day, that is our main goal – making sure that the community is heard and making sure I fight for them in every way possible.”

 

Pastor James Thomas of Living Word Community Church commented about Moore’s leadership, noting, “Your tenure is based upon a mayor whose own record is disgraceful. With the critiques you are receiving, do you really think anyone running for mayor will support you?

Rev Dr Najuma Smith-Pollardn (file)

“You must either be the leader that the city needs or step aside. I hope it’s not too late. It’s not about you personally, but what this city needs. You have an opportunity to exercise leadership and go with the people,” Thomas said.

 

“I argue with your position that I have not shown leadership,” retorted Moore. “I strive everyday to demonstrate the qualities, experience, knowledge and commitment toward the mission of this organization by encouraging, building, and equipping our people with the resources they need to do a difficult job.  I do so with the commitment to changing the culture of our organization and improve it and identify those in our ranks who don’t deserve to wear this badge.

 

“What I don’t do is change my style or values to placate an elected official. If this mayor or the next mayor finds that I am not the person for this position, I respect that. What’s critical to me is that this organization continues to move forward, build on past reforms, recognizing that the most critical aspect of its relationship with the community is its trust. How it goes about policing is a major component of how that trust is built. I welcome the opportunity to answer questions and response to concerns. I’m grateful for our continued dialogue moving forward,” said Moore.

 

The Rev. Dr. D. Najuma Smith-Pollard, pastor of Word of Encouragement Community Church and program manager of USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, asked Moore for the procedure for civilians to serve on boards, commissions and panels that are connected to LAPD.

 

“We would like to get that information, so we can understand how decisions are made and the best way to understand is to be part of the process,” noted Smith-Pollard. “It’s really about access – how do we access serving in this position?”

 

Moore along with Police Commissioner Dale Bonner committed to get details and materials outlining the process to forum members.

 

Smith-Pollard also requested a commitment from Moore to work with the group as well as gang interventionists and prevention organizations to address “this issue of violence, which is not always gang-related,” yet is occurring with increased frequency in the community. Moore replied that he and his staff will schedule a follow-up meeting on the topic with forum members.

 

The chief also said that he welcomes future meetings of the forum to improve the relationship between the African American community and the Los Angeles Police Department.

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