On May 16, a very low-profile election will take place in the city of Los Angeles. A little known, but hugely significant, Charter Amendment is the only item on the ballot in 11 of the 15 City Council Districts, and all of those with a large Black population (8, 9, and 10). Low voter turnout is expected and hoped for by the powers that placed the item on the ballot (costing millions of taxpayer dollars).
Charter Amendment C is the work of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is said to have walked the item over to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office in a backroom deal where the police union agreed not to oppose his reelection bid (as they had in his first run) if he would ensure that the ballot measure was moved forward. Garcetti, who makes no secret of his ambitions to run for higher office…benefits greatly from police support. In several instances, the son of the County’s former District Attorney Gil Garcetti, has vocalized his pro-police stance. Most recently, to the May Day crowd of thousands of people of color, immigrants, and workers, he chided “Be sure to thank a police officer.” Upon receipt of the proposal from the police union, Garcetti then, passed it on to City Council President, Herb Wesson, who placed the item on the May 16th ballot during the 11th hour, perhaps to avoid inclusion of an official opposition statement.
What Charter Amendment C will do is allow police officers who are found guilty of misconduct to essentially choose their “jury.” Currently, officer misconduct charges are handled by the Chief, who determines the merits and imposes discipline. Officers found guilty can appeal the Chief’s decision to a Board of Rights, which consists of two command-staff officers and one non-police professional (usually a retired judge, arbitrator, attorney, or even a former officer). In every single instance, the non-police professional has been more lenient on guilty officers than command-staff. The ballot measure would keep the current system in place and add an additional option that allows for all three members of the appeals body to be non-police professionals who are paid $1000 per day and can be hand-picked from a list by the officer who has already been found guilty of misconduct. At a time when tensions continue to rise between community and police, when LAPD continues to lead the nation in the killing of its residents, when nearly 60% of Angelenos believe that another mass-uprising is inevitable, we must not weaken police discipline, yet that is precisely what Charter Amendment C would do.1
Nearly 100 organizations, community leaders, and media outlets have come out in vocal opposition to Charter Amendment C. Everyone from Pastor John Cager, to Black Lives Matter, to classroom teachers (UTLA), to the Los Angeles Sentinel oppose, recognizing that we must hold police who are found guilty of misconduct accountable.2 Those who placed the item on the ballot expect communities of color and working class people – those most impacted by police misconduct – to stay home, but this is one that we cannot afford to sit out. We implore everyone to get out and vote #NoOnC on May 16th and tell everyone you know to “hold the line against police misconduct.”