The CCPD’s Fear Campaign To Stop Change

This past summer the Culver City Police Department (CCPD) turned its powerful public relations tools toward defeating calls to reimagine public safety. CCPD began deploying its push-text Nixle system and press releases to highlight relatively rare violent incidents. In the following months, the PD and its police union ally the Culver City Police Officers Association (CCPOA) successfully bullied the City Manager into refusing to implement the City Council’s directive, adopted at the behest of CCAN and others, to develop options for reallocating up to 50% of the CCPD budget toward alternative means of ensuring public safety.

Once that corruption of our city’s democracy had been achieved, the PD reverted to its prior pattern of infrequent press releases. This second change underscores the PD’s abuse of public safety alerts to scare the public for self-serving political purposes.

Before May 2020, CCPD rarely issued press releases about violent crime, focusing instead on alerting residents to active safety risks, traffic issues, and the like. The dramatic increase in summer 2020 reflected not a spike violence but a spike in publicity.

These scare tactics focused on violent crime aligned with the police union’s scorched-earth campaign. CCPOA hired a PR firm to produce MAGA-style campaign ads replete with false defenses of a past CCPD killing of an unarmed Black man, right-wing memes reducing Black Lives Matter protests to looting, and attacks on those who called for change in Culver City. CCPOA’s new Political Action Committee spent tens of thousands of dollars attacking City Council candidates who sought to reimagine public safety, supporting candidates tied to local white nationalists, and defending DA Jackie Lacey.  Notably, CCPD’s PR officer was among the many officers who donated to the CCPOA’s political operation even after it had been widely condemned for its dishonest, divisive, and threatening conduct. When the campaign period ended, CCPD stopped its barrage of fear. Recently, CCPOA has remained silent while its right-wing allies looted the U.S. Capitol, assaulted our democracy, and killed a police officer, a striking contrast to how much it had to say about Portland and Seattle this summer.

The entire PD/CCPOA focus on violent crime is a bad faith attempt to block serious debate about the size of the police force, its budget, and the breadth of its responsibilities. The truth is that only a tiny fraction of CCPD operations relate to violent crime. The pro-police consultants hired by the City reported that only 2% of police dispatches responded to violent crime reports. In contrast, 43% related to traffic enforcement, parking, and traffic and other accidents, and 31% related to mental health, calls about “disturbances” or “suspicious incidents,” or police-initiated pedestrian stops. In short, it is absurd and dishonest to suggest that reallocating substantial public safety resources away from armed police would affect response to violent crime.