Say No To Cop Who Killed Lejoy Grissom

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.