We reject the City Manager’s report for the Public Safety Review task force. It is an insult to the people of Culver City, and to the City Council, and a profound blow to the credibility of City government. We reject it not because of the answers it provides but because of the questions it refuses to ask, the very questions that it was specifically charged with addressing. Tasked with presenting options including reallocating up to 50% of CCPD budget to alternative public safety approaches, the task force came up with 1.6% in accounting gimmicks with no practical significance. Shockingly, nearly four months after this began, we still have not been told the most basic information about how police spend their time, something that should have been the starting point of analysis months ago. Faced with the Task Force’s abject failure, we call on the City Council to simply reject the report rather than get sucked into a salvage effort or face-saving half-measures. At this point, it will have to be the next Council that grapples with these issues. In the meantime, the data the community needs for an informed discussion should be released.
We begin where this began, with the public torture and murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in broad daylight, in public, and accompanied by several other officers who failed to intervene. All because of a supposed counterfeit $20. With the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by white homeowners who assumed he was a criminal because he was a jogging through their “oasis” of a white neighborhood. With the murder of Breonna Taylor by police in an operation that privileged a drug enforcement operation to gentrify a neighborhood for developers over the obvious risks to Black life of a heavily armed no-knock nighttime raid. With the murder of Eric Garner, stopped for selling cigarettes unlicensed. With Sandra Bland, dead as a result of a stop for allegedly failing to signal a lane change. With Philando Castille and a broken taillight.
And these are just a few of the deaths. The conventional practice of policing is a daily threat to the dignity, the freedom, and, yes, the lives of Black community members specifically and BIPOC people more generally. The Black Lives Matter movement’s call to defund police and reimagine public safety is a call to eliminate police-civilian encounters that unnecessarily risk harm, or even death, and to redesign community institutions to address the situations that today trigger armed response with prevention and care.
Heeding this call, four of five Councilmembers expressly embraced the project of reimagining public safety by shifting substantial public safety functions away from armed police. There was broad consensus in principle about structural change in response to houseless people in public, people in mental health crisis, neighbor disputes, welfare checks, traffic enforcement, and similar matters that typically do not involve an imminent threat of violence.
Of course, actual institutional change requires much more detail and planning, and so a Task Force was created to begin that process: a process of structural change. The exact budget implications could not be known without a clearer understanding of the mix of situations to which police respond, the amount of personnel and time spent on them, and the structure and cost of alternative responses. Similarly, institutional change is disruptive, and so analysis is necessary of the pace of change, including mechanisms that can respect the interests of incumbent workers without simply granting a permanent entitlement to perpetuate the status quo.
Accordingly, the task force was to start answering those questions. In order to ensure accountability and avoid the risks of bureaucratic inertia and backsliding, the Council imposed—at our urging—a tight timeline, a demand for actionable steps, and a benchmark that conveyed the scale of change necessary: options that went as far as reallocating 50% of CCPD resources, obviously not immediately, but over a planned process. The Council did not commit to adopting any particular changes, but it directed that it be provided with options, even reaffirming that direction with regard to the 50% option after the first signs of backsliding by the City Manager.
But in the end, the Task Force failed to carry to out its mandate. We understand that there has been tremendous pressure from the police union, including not only public intimidation of those advocating change but also threats of the “blue flu” if changes are made. Unsurprisingly, the PD itself would prefer to maintain its power and budget. We understand that many members of the community who wish that a different Council had been elected in 2018 object to the decisions made by the Council that was elected. But these are illegitimate reasons to not follow through. If, instead, Council members signalled in private that the Task Force needn’t do what they called for in public, then that would be an even more fundamental betrayal of our little democracy. Either way, it is a heavy blow to confidence in the integrity of City government.
The most basic data about what the police do has not been produced in this report, let alone early in the process where it could have guided the inquiry. There is no data on 911 dispatches and other calls for service, which in other jurisdictions have consistently been found to involve violent crime no more than 10% of the time. There is no data about the volume of traffic stops that don’t lead to arrest or citation.
Meanwhile, the CCPD suddenly undertook a PR campaign of push-text announcements of nearly every violent incident in Culver City, a radical departure from past reporting practice transparently aimed at scaring the community and warping its understanding of police activity. More recently, the police union CCPOA has followed suit, complementing its campaign of intimidation against its critics with fear-mongering electioneering and shocking personal attacks on local activists and political candidates. All this is premised on the false notion that cutbacks in policing overall necessarily imply reduced capacity to address violent crime. But the Task Force has deprived the public of the data and analysis that would make this clear, thereby by giving aid and comfort to the campaign against change.
Indeed, the only useful new information about CCPD has come from outside sources. This includes the UCLA Million Dollar Hoods analysis of arrest data demonstrating massive racial disparities in arrests, including after correcting for city of residence, and the concentration of these arrests and disparities in low-level offenses. In contrast, the City Manager’s report utterly fails to grapple with questions of institutional and systemic racism, constantly calls into doubt community members’ testimony to mistreatment by labelling it “perceived,” and astonishingly suggests that race equity issues are reducible to questions of individual disparate treatment by officers to be remedied with colorblindness.
Similarly, the only useful information about CCPD labor costs has come from UCLA Law School’s Criminal Justice Program. Its report showed that, notwithstanding a salary ordinance designed to maintain parity between CCPD salaries and LAPD and LASD, various collectively bargained add-ons massively inflate CCPD pay relative to that benchmark. There has been zero analysis from the task force of how to manage a potential transition to a smaller sworn police force. Such an analysis that would require studying attrition rates, expected retirement horizons, the potential influence of buyouts, the use of furloughs rather than layoffs, and so on. Nothing.
And, most obviously and defiantly, the City Manager simply refused to provide anything remotely like the 50% reduction scenario that he was twice directed to produce. Nor 40%. Nor 30%. Nor 20%. There was no explanation, no deferral to a subsequent but defined process, no articulation of the need for a lengthy timeline or slow transition. There was no presentation of a good-faith option with a recommendation that, on balance, it not be adopted. Instead, nothing. Just bald-faced refusal. This is utterly shameful and represents a fundamental breakdown in accountability.
With an election already underway, it is too late to repair the damage to this Council’s ability to act. Accordingly, it should simply acknowledge the Task Force’s failure and pass the issue to the next Council, whose composition obviously will shape the direction to be taken. In the meantime, however, this Council should demand the immediate release of the maximum amount of information and analysis about policing practices gathered by CPSM. This includes not only CPSM’s own analysis but the underlying data so that it can be independently re-analyzed. This is particularly important because, astonishingly, CPSM has made clear in its public presentations that it does not view its job as analyzing pathways to reimagine public safety, but rather as analyzing the efficiency with which CCPD engages in conventional policing.
Although we hesitate to dignify this report with any engagement on its specifics, we append below observations about the inadequacy of its particular recommendations. The pattern throughout is the avoidance of anything that would actually reduce reliance on armed police response – the very premise of the enterprise.
Proposed Budget Changes
- The only new budget reductions the report proposes amount to 2.7% of CCPD budget. These would be achieved by transferring non-sworn parking, animal services, and crossing guard personnel to other departments. In addition to being tiny, these changes have zero effect on the nature and extent of policing.
- Even these miniscule budget reductions are then substantially offset by the proposal to spend an additional $500,000 to staff up the City jail. The result is a net reduction of just 1.6% of budget. As discussed previously, the necessary changes to reverse the PD’s years of neglect of detainee safety should come out of existing operations. Instead, these changes are designed to free up officers for additional patrol, the very opposite of what this process is supposed to achieve.
- The report attempts to double-count the reductions to the PD budget that were proposed this spring in response to the City-wide pandemic fiscal crisis. Those 6% reductions to CCPD budget were substantially lower than other departments, causing the PD’s share of budget to increase. They had already been agreed to at the time the Task Force was formed.
Pilot: Adult pre-booking diversion program
As presented, this pilot program is designed to have no effect on policing. As a “pre-booking” program, it anticipates the same number of front-line police encounters and simply gives another option for what to do with people they have taken into custody. It also is explicitly tied to the availability of outside funding, yet another indication that diversion of resources from policing is not on the table. As the task force’s equity consultant Saul Sarabia notes in his report, best practices in diversion involve avoiding police response–and the attendant opportunities for harassment or violence–in the first place.
Pilot: Fire Department mental health team
As presented, this pilot program again appears designed to have no effect on policing. Unlike the CAHOOTS model that has been extensively discussed, it does not divert from armed police response to 911 or other calls for service. The pilot is explicitly framed as a “supplement” to existing policing. It is also puzzling why this would be located in the Fire Department, rather than building capacity for mental health and social services in PRCS. Again, the invocation of outside grant funding indicates an intent to avoid diverting resources away from armed policing.
Pilot: Restorative Practices Program
This program is again specifically proposed to extend a diversion program controlled by the CCPD itself. Best practices in youth diversion remove law enforcement from the process as much as possible.
Pilot: Minimize Traffic Citations
This proposal focuses exclusively on “fix-it ticket” citation practices after police stops. In other words, police patrol and responsibility for traffic enforcement are, again, unchanged. If this practice had been in place in St. Anthony, MN, Philando Castile still would have been shot and killed during the traffic stop for a broken taillight. The report produces zero data about existing citation practices, about what proportion of them would be affected, and about the practical feasibility of drivers curing the violations, especially for violations rooted in poverty like an inability to pay fines & fees from prior police stops.
This extraordinary section attempts to cut off discussion of reimagining public safety with ungrounded speculation about potential insurance and liability implications. It fails to acknowledge that status quo policing already exposes the City to substantial liability, as represented by the approximately $8 million in fifteen different settlements of lawsuits over police abuse that it has paid out over the past decade or so.
There is zero analysis, or supporting documentation, of the idea the City could face liability for changes in 911 dispatch procedures. For instance, you wouldn’t know from the staff report that California courts have specifically rejected holding cities liable based on a “dispatcher’s failure or delay in responding to a 911 call” (Eastburn v. Reg’l Fire Prot. Auth., 31 Cal. 4th 1175, 1178, (2003)) and have also refused to “impose liability based on the negligence by police personnel in responding to requests for assistance” (M.B. v. City of San Diego, 233 Cal. App. 3d 699, 705 (Ct. App. 1991)). Nor would you know that California Government Code 845 specifically protects localities from liability for reasons like those raised. “[Section 845] grants a general immunity for failure to provide police protection or for failure to provide enough police protection. Whether police protection should be provided at all, and the extent to which it should be provided, are political decisions which are committed to the policy-making officials of government. To permit review of these decisions by judges and juries would remove the ultimate decision-making authority from those politically responsible for making the decision.” (Lopez v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. (1985) 40 Cal.3d 780, 792). No doubt there may be more to the story, but the staff report does not provide it.
The speculation about “appropriate police staffing to respond to 911 calls” also is ungrounded in any analysis of the staffing implications of various changes. For instance, if a significant number of 911 calls are diverted to other responders, it would seem to follow that CCPD staffing could be reduced without any reduction in the per-call personnel available or in response time. These are the kinds of questions that the Task Force should have analyzed itself. Instead, having failed to do so, it simply passes on unchallenged speculation that appears to assume across-the-board cuts in police staffing without accompanying restructuring of public safety response. This is the libel offered by those who refuse to consider reimagining public safety, not the constructive, evidence-based investigation that the Council directed but was not carried out.
The report also claims broadly that “the insurance industry is not comfortable with non-sworn personnel responding to 911 calls.” Again, unproven, ungrounded, but very convenient. Has anyone attempted to get them comfortable? Has Eugene, OR been unable to buy insurance because of its extensive diversion of 911 calls to non-sworn personnel? How has Denver approached this problem with its own recent embrace of non-sworn response? The report is looking for excuses to do nothing, not trying to tackle and solve problems.
CCAN recently spoke out against the travesty of appointing Lt. Luis Martinez as the first labor representative to Culver City’s newly formed Equity & Human Relations Advisory Committee (EHRAC). As the LA Times reported at the time, Martinez was found in federal court to have wrongfully killed Lejoy Grissom, a Black man, by using excessive force during his official duties as a CCPD officer. Out of all the City’s dedicated employees, how can Martinez possibly be an appropriate, let alone the best, choice to represent the City’s workforce on a committee devoted to “promot[ing] positive human relations and equitable outcomes and opportunities in all aspects of community life”? The EHRAC is specifically charged with receiving complaints about interactions with City employees. What does it do to the credibility of the EHRAC, and to someone’s willingness to come forward, when one of its members has been found to have committed the most serious possible violation, leading to an $8.8 million jury verdict for the fatal violation of someone’s civil rights?
In response to our statement, the Culver City Police Officers Association (CCPOA) released a scorching, Trump-style campaign video, complete with ominous warnings about “looters,” Portland, and Seattle. Shockingly, the video said not one word about the Equity & Human Relations Advisory Committee, its value, or why the police union’s apparent nomination of Martinez made sense. The video also did not mention the unanimous jury ruling against Martinez and the CCPD. Instead, the CCPOA launched a full-throated defense of his actions and a bizarre, ill-founded attack on CCAN and two residents who have done prominent work advancing equity in the community.
Because the CCPOA’s video is, at best, highly misleading, we want to provide additional resources and new information so that the community can understand what is at stake. The available trial transcripts are linked here; other documents are linked below.
Most of the CCPOA’s claims about Martinez’s killing of Grissom simply repeat arguments that the jury heard and rejected. The testimony established that Grissom was shot and killed shortly after emerging from his car with his hands raised around his head, facing Martinez. Unlike Martinez, the several other officers with their guns trained on Grissom saw no basis to shoot. Martinez claimed that he fired because he saw a shiny metallic object in Grissom’s cupped hand that might have been a gun, but the jury rejected that defense; all other officers and civilians testified that they saw nothing in Grissom’s open hands. The officers made conflicting statements about whether Grissom moved his hands, and a civilian witness testified that even if they moved somewhat, they remained at chest height or higher the entire time. Again, the jury unanimously resolved those questions against Martinez and the CCPD.
The CCPOA video also asserts that Grissom was “armed, and a small caliber handgun was recovered at the scene.” This is simply false. Witnesses at trial testified consistently that after he was fatally shot, Grissom was searched by a police officer. No weapon was found on him or elsewhere at the scene. Even the District Attorney’s (DA) report on which the CCPOA relies does not dispute this. Indeed, the lawyers for CCPD and Martinez specifically acknowledged during litigation “[t]he fact that Decedent Lejoy Grissom did not have a weapon on his immediate person at the time of the shooting.” Indeed, they attempted to keep this fact from the jury, though the judge denied that request.
According to both the DA’s report and pre-trial documents, after Grissom was transported to the hospital, where he was declared dead, an officer produced a gun he claimed to have retrieved from Grissom’s shoe at the hospital. Although not noted in either the DA report nor the CCPOA video, this gun was not loaded, as the defendants’ lawyers also acknowledged. Again, the defendants sought, this time successfully, to keep from the jury that an unloaded gun was recovered at the hospital. Yet now the CCPOA video tries to defend Martinez and attack CCAN with an asserted “fact” contradicted by all the trial testimony and disclaimed even by the CCPD’s and Martinez’ own defense lawyers.
At the hospital, the officer’s production of this unloaded gun occurred after emergency trauma technicians had removed Grissom’s shoes and tossed them into a corner with his other clothing. The technician who tossed the shoes testified pre-trial that she did not see a gun, feel the weight of one, nor hear anything fall out when the shoes landed. The technician characterized the subsequent production of a gun as “fishy,” “really weird,” and “odd,” leading her to conclude that the gun likely was planted after the officer sought access to the clothing. After expressing surprise to the officer and sharing her concerns with her supervisor, she also reported receiving “evil glares” from the officer. This testimony was so dangerous to the defense that the CCPD and Martinez successfully asked the court to bar from the trial this and all other evidence about recovery of the unloaded gun at the hospital, to prevent the jury from considering a possible coverup.
Developing this evidence of a potential cover-up was one of several differences between the civil lawsuit brought by Grissom’s surviving family members and the initial investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies. Within months of the killing, the LA County’s Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and DA concluded that no discipline or prosecution were warranted. The DA’s report, based entirely on the LASD’s fact-gathering, essentially repeats the CCPD’s and Martinez’s version of events, the one later rejected by the jury. The CCPOA video relies entirely on the DA’s report while ignoring that the trial even occurred. However, the failure of law enforcement agencies to deliver accountability for police killings is itself one of the systemic failures against which the Black Lives Matter movement has risen up in protest. Eric Garner’s killer was not prosecuted. Michael Brown’s killer was not prosecuted. Breonna Taylor’s killers have not been arrested. And so many more.
In Los Angeles, the DA’s failure to deliver accountability for police killings has motivated a campaign to replace Jackie Lacey, the hand-picked successor to the DA who cleared Martinez. BLM-LA has led weekly protests at her office. Dignity & Power Now says Lacey “has carried on the same racist, deadly legacy that preceded her.” The cozy relationship between DAs, local police, and local police unions has prompted efforts in California to ban police union political contributions in DA races and to create investigative processes independent of local law enforcement. The problems are even more extreme with the LASD’s investigation. The Sheriff at the time, Lee Baca, is currently serving a federal prison term for obstructing justice and lying to the FBI in its investigations of excessive force at County jails. In this case, Grissom’s family persevered, leading to further investigation as part of the civil lawsuit. When the case finally received a comprehensive hearing before an impartial decision-maker, that eight-member jury unanimously found that Martinez was in the wrong. The Martinez case illustrates how Culver City is no stranger to the dynamics that have sparked uprisings against police violence, and impunity for it, nationwide.
The current controversy, however, was not prompted by the killing itself, nor by Martinez’s retention and promotion by the CCPD. Rather, it was triggered by his nomination and appointment to the EHRAC, seemingly at police union behest. In multiple ways, Culver City is currently attempting to restructure City government to better embrace equity and value Black lives. The newly-created EHRAC is part of that process, as is the current Public Safety Review Task Force, which the CCPOA has also vehemently opposed. Right now, police and their unions across the country are embracing Trump, alt-right groups, and the violent suppression of dissent using local and federal force. With its “thin blue line” rally in alliance with the local right-wing group Protect Culver City and its alt-right leader, this video, and more, the CCPOA is demonstrating that it is cut from the same cloth as police unions nationally, that it is devoted to obstructing solutions with propaganda, threats, and demands for impunity.
We reiterate our call for the City’s other labor unions to help clean up this mess by rescinding their support for Martinez’s appointment as the labor representative on the EHRAC, and for Martinez to resign from that position. If necessary as a last resort, the City Council should remove him from the EHRAC.
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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.