In 2008, Inglewood Police Officers killed several unarmed men. And despite pledging transparency, the Inglewood City Council has yet to comment on the status of any of the four investigations of these shootings. This is a breach of community confidence and lack of transparency. Inglewood residents have a right to be kept informed but the Council’s silence creates the impression that the killings and investigations should be erased from the public’s memory.
Accordingly, excerpts (updated) from Urban Perspective (Jan. 15, 2009) and my letter(November 29, 2011) to the current Inglewood mayor and city council follow: (Essentially, I argue that the City Council has done Inglewood residents a disservice by not being sufficiently sensitive to their initial fear over the killings and their continuing concern over not being advised of the status of the investigations.)
“Since the killings, the mayor and city council have been virtually silent. Does the Council feel that commenting on the killings is irresponsible? If they do, such short-sightedness is the opposite of what is needed, i.e., informed sensitive leadership that instills confidence in constituents. People understand that the Council cannot discuss confidential information, but to embargo any reference to the killings or the investigations fuels suspicion about its motives.
(Former mayor Roosevelt Dorn’s said that the city council had to adhere to the Office of Independent Review’s recommendations. That was pure nonsense. The Council can accept or reject any or all of OCR’s recommendations. Was Dorn’s statement a ploy to absolve him and the Council of responsibility for dealing with a politically charged issue?)
Substantial commercial development in Inglewood in recent years is positive, but shopping centers, ipso facto, do not enhance residents’ quality of life. Effective, community-oriented, ethical leadership should be the norm which requires that elected officials be constituent-oriented rather than self-serving. (Values are at the core of this, but years of individualistic orientation has taken a toll and Black leadership especially, has internalized values inimical to their constituents best interests.
Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks inherited a long-simmering mess and as a female in a male-dominated field, her job is even more challenging. Nonetheless, Seabrooks’ propensity for whitewashing the department’s problems is of considerable concern. Also, people have difficulty getting past her unbelievable response when informed that 19-year-old Michael Byoune’s had been shot and killed by Inglewood cops. She told an LA Times reporter who called her that weekend that she “did business during the week”-or words to that effect. This was troubling, to say the least.
On July 28th and September 2nd, 2008, following the four officer-involved shootings in as many months, Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote to the U. S. Attorney-General requesting an investigation of allegations of misconduct by IPD. On December 23rd, Ms. Waters reiterated her request “to determine whether there is a pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct or violations of federal civil rights or federal criminal laws.
Shoddy leadership led to the prolonged, unnecessary silence that has engulfed the investigations of the police shooters and the IPD. The mayor and a majority of the City Council seem as concerned with soft-pedaling the allegations of police misconduct as they are with getting at the truth. Legal and/or procedural constraints do not foreclose straightforward communication; the City Council could have periodically advised the community of the status of the investigations, not only as a way of informing the community, but also gaining its trust.
Unfortunately, Inglewood residents themselves have reinforced the Council’s silence by not publically criticizing its code of silence. Of course, there are no panaceas, but transparency and mutual trust are key ingredients for sustainable change in both IPD and the City Council. Inglewood residents should settle for no less.”
On November 29, 201, the following letter was sent to Mayor James Butts and the Inglewood City Council:
Beginning in 2008, a spate of IPD officer-involved shootings resulted in the death of several unarmed men. Inglewood residents responded with understandable outrage and calls for transparency and reform in IPD. However, to my knowledge, with the exception of the U.S. Justice Department’s (DOJ) initial report (December 2009), the status of none of the other investigations has been made available to the public. (In addition to DOJ, other reported investigations included the L.A. County Office of Independent Review (OIR), L.A. District Attorney and an internal investigation of IPD.)
The city’s withholding the results of these investigations pending the settlement of lawsuits notwithstanding, your council failed to allay community concern by not periodically acknowledging the public’s right to transparency and pledging to release results of the investigation as soon as legally possible. Moreover, many residents, rightfully or not, feel your complete silence tends to generate distrust when your stated intent is just the opposite.
The council should reverse its de facto policy of silence regarding the status of the investigations of these killings by providing public updates from time to time. I suggest this would better serve the interests of both the council and the community.
Respectfully, Larry Aubry
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org