CCAN Statement on Appointment of Lt. Luis Martinez to New Equity Committee
CCAN condemns the recent appointment of CCPD Lt. Luis Martinez to Culver City’s Equity and Human Relations Advisory Committee, which met this week for the first time. Martinez is notorious as the CCPD officer who shot and killed Lejoy Grissom, an unarmed Black man. Grissom’s family sued for wrongful death. Martinez and the CCPD fought the charge all the way to trial. At the 2013 trial, three fellow CCPD officers took the extraordinary step of testifying against Martinez. The jury unanimously rejected Martinez’s attempts to justify his actions and found that he had wrongfully killed Grissom, awarding $8.8 million to his young children. Soon thereafter, CCPD promoted Martinez. Martinez was appointed to the Equity and Human Relations Advisory Committee as the nominee of the Culver City’s four public sector labor unions, presumably at the behest of the police union (Culver City Police Officers Association), of which he has long been a leader.
This appointment is a deliberate finger in the eye as thousands in Culver City are marching to #DefendBlackLives in the wake of police murders of George Floyd and so many others. It is an affront that Martinez, of all CCPD officers and all City employees, was appointed to a committee charged with “promot[ing] positive human relations and equitable outcomes and opportunities in all aspects of community life.”
This outrage comes on the heels of the CCPOA’s collaboration with our local landlord-funded right-wing group, Protect Culver City (PCC). Their recent joint rally prominently featured the “thin blue line” slogan that defends unaccountable policing as our only defense against chaos—not education, not health care, not housing. This, of course, is precisely how the Trump Administration frames its invasion of Portland with federal troops to suppress protests there, and its threats to do so nationwide. It also echoes PCC’s campaign to address our homelessness crisis by more aggressively criminalizing unhoused people (whom it insists on calling “vagrants”), while fighting against rent control and other measures that keep people in their homes. PCC’s founder has been celebrating the Portland crackdown on social media, in keeping with his long association with and support for the alt-right, hate groups, and other threats to decency in our society. Police unions have been instrumental in encouraging Trump’s suppression of protest with federal forces in Portland, Chicago, Seattle, and elsewhere.
CCPOA’s actions demonstrate that in Culver City, as nationally, the structural anti-Blackness of policing is not a matter of a “few bad apples.” The CCPOA is not the CCPD, but its members are CCPD officers. How can the community trust the CCPD when this is who its officers collectively put forward as their representative to work on equity and human relations? We understand that there may be disagreements on these matters among members of the CCPD and CCPOA, and we appreciate those who oppose this action.
While CCPOA surely knows Martinez’s history, we recognize that the other City unions involved in the appointment may have been unaware. This appointment occurred via consent calendar at the City Council’s July 13 meeting, after being separated from the main consideration of appointments on June 8 (when each individual was vetted publicly) because the unions had not yet submitted their nomination.We call on the other three City unions—the Culver City Employees’ Association, the Culver City Management Group, and the Culver City Firefighters, Local 1927, AFL-CIO—to acknowledge this error. They should either retract the nomination or demand that Martinez resign so that an appropriate replacement can be found. In LA County, California, and nationwide, the labor movement has been a leader in solidarity with movements to defend Black lives; this includes speaking out, or even expelling police unions, when they stand on the wrong side of history. We hope the same will be true here in Culver City. We also reiterate our understanding that jobs in policing have, like unionized public sector jobs more generally, been an avenue of mobility for many working class people of color. That is why our call to #DefundCCPD has stipulated that this should be done without permanent layoffs. Recognizing these interests in economic security, however, can never become an excuse for impunity, nor for defending a status quo that continues to threaten freedom and public safety, especially for BIPOC members of our community.
July 12, 2020
Dear City Council of Culver City:
We write briefly in anticipation of your meeting this Monday, July 13. Agenda item A-2 addresses the framework for the public safety review task force that you approved at the June 22 meeting. We were surprised, disappointed, and concerned that the A-2 staff report does not direct the task force to include a reallocation of at least 50% of the CCPD budget as an option in their review. Divesting from policing to this degree would enable the City to invest in other means of addressing public safety–without the risks of racial profiling, public harassment, and potential injury or death that armed policing continues to pose to Black and other people of color in Culver City, as elsewhere in our country–and in better meeting community needs in areas such as housing, mental health, youth services, workforce development, and more.
As you no doubt recall, and is clearly reflected in the publicly available recording of the June 22 meeting, the Council’s direction to staff with regard to the task force explicitly incorporated the 50% benchmark. Councilmembers Lee and Sahli-Wells endorsed the 50% defunding goal early in the task force discussion. During the closing discussion of direction to staff, the Mayor explicitly raised the question of where the Council stood on 50%, noting that two members had taken a position already. In the ensuing discussion, Councilmember Small expressly embraced 50% as an appropriate goal for the task force, and Vice Mayor Fisch stated his general agreement with Councilmember Small, though audio difficulties made his full remarks difficult to capture. Mayor Eriksson then noted that his previous characterization of direction to staff should be updated accordingly.
As we observed in our previous letter in advance of the June 22 meeting, having an explicit benchmark of a 50% defunding is crucial to the credibility of the task force process as a good faith effort to advance structural change in a thoughtful, well-planned way. Without it, there is ample reason to suspect that this process will just confirm the adage that task forces are where change goes to die. That suspicion is heightened by the Council’s June 22 decision to make negligible changes to the 2020-21 budget despite strong public calls, by the City manager’s caution about major changes expressed during the June 22 meeting, and by the staff report for July 13 omitting the 50% benchmark despite it having been so explicitly and extensively discussed on June 22.
We urge you to keep your word, maintain public confidence in the process, and expressly reaffirm and direct the task force, as formally and as explicitly as necessary, to produce a report in keeping with your original direction. Such a report would allow the Council to, by late September, adopt and implement a plan for restructuring public safety at the scale of at least 50% of the current CCPD budget. We hope this will be part of a broader, ongoing process that establishes meaningful community control of public safety through independent, comprehensive oversight and also reckons explicitly with the legacy of Culver City’s history of racial exclusion, including specifically but not exclusively through policing.
We look forward to your continued leadership, vision, and resolve in making good on the promise of real change presented by this moment in our City’s history.
Culver City Action Network (CCAN)
June 19, 2020
Dear City Council of Culver City:
Thank you for listening this past Monday to the outpouring of demands from the community to #DefundPolice, and to the moving testimonials about why this is so necessary. We appreciate much of what individual Council members said in response from the virtual dais, and especially the statements of general support for the core principle underlying the call to defund. That principle is to shrink the resources devoted to armed law enforcement and reallocate funds to meeting community needs, including public safety, outside the control of the Police Department. Regrettably, your words were not matched with deeds at that meeting. Nonetheless, we are encouraged by your June 22 agenda’s inclusion of both some modest reallocations of PD budget to social services and also a proposed Task Force to reimagine the City’s approach to public safety. The City needs you to seize this moment and take bold action.
We write now with updated demands for concrete, formal actions at your June 22 meeting to live up to the principles you have publicly embraced. Our overarching demands remain the same: #DefundPolice and establish community control.
We urge you to charge and empower the Task force to robustly review and propose how to deeply restructure the City’s approach to public safety, reduce spending on the CCPD, and reallocate funds to meeting community needs. Creating a task force must not become a delaying tactic. Seattle’s recent initiation of a budget inquest process provides a useful model. Three principles should guide your charge to the Task Force:
- Urgency: The Task Force should be structured to rapidly bring back to the Council proposals that can be formally adopted (even if time is required for implementation) within three months (by the end of September).
- Ambition: As a benchmark to convey the depth of the changes to be developed, the Task Force should be charged with proposing changes that would reallocate at least 50% of the PD’s budget.
This immediate target has been adopted by Seattle and urged by leading thinkers and activists such as Mariame Kaba. It seems especially feasible in Culver City given that CCPD’s budget has grown, in inflation-adjusted terms, by more than 35% since 2010, and Culver City has about 50% more sworn officers than comparably sized cities nationally and than nearby jurisdictions other than Beverly Hills. Culver City also receives an “F” for over-policing in the Campaign Zero police scorecard because of CCPD’s unusually high rate of misdemeanor arrests. Only 7% of arrests are for violent crimes, making clear the ample room to defund without affecting this aspect of policing, despite the scare tactics embraced by some in the community.
An ambitious target is necessary to drive fundamental transformation, rather than tinkering around the edges.
- Breadth: The Task Force should have a broad mandate to consider all current CCPD functions and all CCPD spending, including salaries and other forms of compensation, on those functions that remain within the CCPD. Savings that do not need to be invested in alternative approaches to public safety should be allocated to other community needs, especially policies that advance racial equity and inclusion in Culver City, such as those already endorsed in the My Brother’s Keeper action plan.
We are dismayed that you seem unwilling to make substantial budget reallocations as we previously proposed in the initial 2020-21 City budget on June 22, although we are gratified by support for expanding the Special Service for Groups (SSG) social work project. Although lack of time has been cited as the reason, this might be better characterized as a lack of urgency on the Council’s part. The funding issues have been raised continuously, including in Council meetings and letters to you, and specifically with regard to the proposed budget, since the current uprising began in response to George Floyd’s murder by police on May 25. Thus, we remain concerned that the recent promises of fundamental change might come to nothing.
To dispel those doubts–well-founded, given the Council’s record on policing–we call on you to take formal action at the June 22 meeting to begin the #DefundPolice process in a manner that reflects the urgency, ambition, and breadth noted above. We specifically reject the possibility of deferring such questions until the next annual budget or until after the General Plan Update; we note that you have taken significant actions on housing and environment while the GPU addresses those topics in parallel. With regard to breadth, some additional specifics that the budget inquest ought to address include the following:
- As San Francisco recently announced, identifying alternatives to using police officers as first responders to situations involving,
- Unhoused people,
- People with mental illness,
- Noise and other “quality of life” concerns, and
- Other non-violent matters;
- Identifying which functions currently undertaken by non-sworn personnel but under PD control (such as parking enforcement, animal control, and crossing guards) could be directly transferred to other departments;
- Identifying ways to reduce the number of sworn officers without layoffs, such as attrition, retirement incentives, and/or furloughs, including actions that would first require changes in law or renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements;
- Identifying ways to reduce the extraordinarily high total compensation of many CCPD officers, including
- The base salaries established by the Police Salary Initiative Ordinance and codified in the current collective bargaining agreement (MOU) with the Police Officers’ Association;
- The substantial additions above base salary, not mandated by the Ordinance, such as special assignment pay, field training officer pay, rangemaster pay, POST certificate pay, and longevity pay, as provided for in the MOU;
- CCPD policies and practices that trigger eligibility for these additions.
On a less urgent note, and with regard to our second overarching demand for community control, we also gratefully acknowledge the statements from a majority of Council members in support of two of our prior demands: creation of a robust, independent oversight body with jurisdiction over the PD and public safety more generally, and making the reimagination of public safety a core task for the General Plan Update (GPU). We look forward to formal actions to begin implementing those commitments.
In addition, we reiterate our prior demand that the Council direct the PD to immediately begin implementing the standards established by the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act (RIPA). Up till now, the PD has seemed set on delaying compliance until the last minute legally permitted, though we welcome the openness to changing this that Acting Chief Cid expressed just yesterday. The pervasive experiences of racial profiling in both initial police stops and in aggressive, demeaning post-stop conduct have been central to the testimony you heard Monday (though not for the first time). These also are often precursors to more violent encounters resulting in injury or death, as scholars of race and policing have demonstrated. Gathering this data is an essential first step to addressing this urgent problem.
Thank you for showing an openness to the need for structural change in Culver City. This is a welcome antidote to the denial and self-congratulation that has for too long been the stock-in-trade among City leaders, and continues to be for some, as well as for some segments of the community who long have been most empowered by City government. However, in order to bring about real change and avoid breeding further cynicism, it is essential to immediately start making binding decisions that implement a new vision. We urge you to take this next step on Monday.
Culver City Action Network (CCAN)
We cannot rest in the drive to #DefendBlackLives in Culver City. The current uprising has changed what’s possible. Right now is a critical opportunity to transform Culver City’s approach to policing and public safety. The City Council meets tonight, Monday, June 15, 7pm, to respond to the crisis. Among other things, the police budget is on the agenda, with just one week to go before the budget is finalized. Please show up and speak out to make change.
CCAN has issued two core demands to the Council in advance of this Monday’s meeting:
- Start to #DefundPoice by shrinking CCPD’s budget. We propose an additional 17%, $7.65 million reduction beyond the current proposed budget, with the funds to be reallocated to meeting community needs in ways outside the PD’s control.
- Establish community control by including policing squarely within the General Plan Update process, subjecting it to oversight by a robust, independent commission with jurisdiction over public safety, and requiring immediate PD implementation of the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act.
Public pressure is essential. Here are two things you can do right away:
- Speak out at tonight’s 7pm Council meeting. New voices are the most influential because they demonstrate that things are changing. You can also submit written comments to be read at the meeting. Details on the mechanics are at this link.
- Urge your friends, family, and neighbors to speak out, too.
Let’s all seize this opportunity to make real change.
June 13, 2020
Dear City Council of Culver City:
Thank you for creating the space in your Monday, June 15 special meeting to address how to #DefendBlackLives in Culver City. Echoing calls from Black-led groups like the Movement for Black Lives, we have two fundamental demands: #DefundPolice and assert community control. The funding issue is most urgent, given the current budget process, while the second can be set in motion now but will require, and can allow, more time. These are demands for structural change in the function and governance of policing in Culver City.
You have a crucial opportunity to listen to voices that have long been ignored by most City leaders. These are the voices of Black and other people of color who have testified, again and again, to experiences of racial profiling and police harassment, to fear of harm at the hands of police, to a continuing sense of exclusion and disrespect. Our City has never confronted, let alone overcome, the legacy of racism that stretches from a whites-only founding through official support for racially exclusive covenants to operation as a sundown town enforced by the PD to the hiring of one of Rodney King’s police attackers to today’s gross racial disparities in who bears the brunt of policing.
We reject the repeated pattern in which the response to such points is not just a refusal to listen and acknowledge but also a turn to unflinching, unqualified support for the CCPD exactly as it is, and to self-congratulatory exceptionalism that insists that none of the problems that pervade policing in our country apply here, despite the ample evidence to the contrary. Similarly, while we applaud diversity among CCPD personnel, the notion, repeatedly invoked, that such diversity immunizes the PD against any problems of racially biased policing, and in particular any issues of anti-Blackness, reflects a fundamental confusion about the nature of structural racism. Unfortunately, even in the midst of the current uprising, statements from the Police Chief and from several former Mayors have continued the old patterns. It is not enough to acknowledge the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and then pivot to a celebration of the status quo in Culver City. To the contrary, it is further proof of the deep need for immediate, decisive structural change.
More specifically, we call on the Council to1) #DefundPolice: In this budget cycle, the City Council should remove at least an additional $7.65 million from the currently proposed $45 million CCPD budget and reallocate these funds to meeting community needs in ways outside PD control.
Such a reallocation would do two things: First, $5.65 million would reverse the proposed budget’s current insulation of the PD from the brunt of the planned 17.4% cut in General Fund appropriations brought on by the pandemic fiscal crisis; this would bring the PD cuts into parity with the overall budget. Second, an additional $2 million would reduce PD funding by a further 5%, modestly shrinking its overall budget share. Even so, the PD would still receive 31% of General Fund appropriations, far more than any department. This total PD budget of $37.3 million would remain $4 million above its $33 million inflation-adjusted level of ten years ago. In other words, our proposed minimum change would roll back some, but not all, of the growth in police spending over the last decade. Much more will be needed after this budget cycle.
These reductions should include both reallocation of some existing unsworn operations to other departments and also cutbacks in reliance on sworn officers for functions better performed outside the rubric of law enforcement. San Francisco just decided to shift its police away from front-line response to calls about mental health, unhoused people, school discipline and neighbor disputes. Culver City currently has an officer-to-population ratio more than 50% larger than the national average for similarly sized cities and also than neighboring cities, except Beverly Hills.
Possible destinations for new investment with these dollars include fully funding the City’s recently adopted My Brother’s Keeper action plan (except those components operated through the PD), expanding the City’s currently paltry $1 million budget for senior & other social services through PRCS, and assisting CCUSD in closing its projected $6 million 2020-21 budget deficit.
2) Establish community control: We reiterate our prior demands that the City commit to reimagining its approach to public safety through the General Plan process and by establishing a robust, independent commission with jurisdiction over the CCPD and public safety more broadly. In both cases, it is essential to get away from thinking of policing problems primarily as matters of individualized discipline of “bad apples.” Instead, we must think about approaches to public safety that do not rely on law enforcement and about how policing itself can endanger public safety. Good information is essential to good oversight, and so we also call for the Council to direct the PD to immediately implement the reporting standards of the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act, something it thus far has been delaying as long as legally possible.
We urge you to respond boldly to this moment of crisis by enacting structural changes that break sharply from the old patterns that brought us to this point, both as a country and as a city.
Culver City Action Network (CCAN
POC4Change Presents BIPOC Student Led Virtual Town Hall
August 3rd, 6:30 pm – 8 pm
Be a part of a community discussion addressing issues within the Culver City Unified School District. Topics being discussed include Sexual Misconduct Prevention, Constructive Discipline, and Mental Health Resources Revival.
Join the discussion by registering at: https://forms.gle/5NY1qhsshCCsf9hJA
PRESENTACIÓN VIRTUAL PARA “CONOCER TUS DERECHOS”
“KNOW YOUR RIGHTS” VIRTUAL PRESENTATION
Aprenda sobre protecciones y recursos disponibles para usted
Learn about protections and resources available to you
July 25, 2020 3 pm – 25 de Julio 2020 3 pm
Join at, Únete via: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/211499733
Or Dial by Phone: +1 (224) 501-3412 with Access Code: 211-499-733
Presented by Bet Tzebek in collaboration with Culver City Action Network
For Inquiries, para preguntas 323-549-5891