Lead Story West Edition

Activist group issues appeal to governor

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The National Action Network Los Angeles (NAN L.A.) is calling on Gov. Jerry Brown and other elected officials to help reduce “law enforcement killings” in the state.

NAN L.A — the western regional branch of Rev. Al Sharpton’s nationwide civil rights organization — is pushing Brown to issue an executive order naming the state attorney general as special prosecutor for all officer-involved shootings.

In early July, a variety of issues, including officer conduct, training and prosecution, were brought to a head as millions of viewers across the nation and world saw footage of officers killing two black men: 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 32-year-old Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.  Their videotaped slayings were broadcast widely, and in Castile’s case, streamed live on Facebook.

“In the U.S., 545 people have been shot and killed by the police in 2016 — more than two deaths per day,” the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, NAN L.A. president said, quoting statistics published by USA Today.

“California has the most in the country since January, with 67 killings,” he added. “We are not anti-police, we are just anti-police brutality. … We recognize the importance of working with law enforcement. It is always that one bad apple that messes up the reputation of the department.”

NAN L.A. Policy Director Rasheda Kilpatrick said, “We are in a state of crisis and need our elected officials to move on it.”

“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 147 … so the local prosecutor wasn’t addressing and bringing officers to justice. There is a conflict of interest when prosecutors work every day with officers … and then prosecute those same officers who are their friends.”

“We have to get that across to Brown and the way [to do that] is writing letters. We are trying to generate as many as possible — our target is 10,000.”

NAN L.A.’s July 25 strategy session at Concord Missionary Baptist Church fleshed out the proposal to the governor and other desired changes in law that would add “more consequences and more training” to existing protocols for officers.

“The changes” Kilpatrick said, “would deter officer misconduct and assist them to better serve communities.”

In the aftermath of the killings in Louisiana, five Dallas police officers died in a racially motivated revenge shooting, further ratcheting up tension.

The attacks on police continued July 17 with the slayings of three Baton Rouge officers.

In both incidents, civilians and other police officers were injured.

On July 13, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Chief Charlie Beck, other police chiefs, activists and organizers from around the country met with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.

In L.A., Tulloss met with Garcetti, Beck and Police Commission President Matt Johnson. NAN-L.A. also held town hall meetings and demonstrations engaging residents, local clergy, civil rights activists and legal experts to discuss police brutality and accountability, and community violence.

Since the Police Commission ruled July 12 that the shooting death of Redel Jones near Baldwin Hills in August 2015 was within departmental policy, Black Lives Matter L.A. protestors have camped near the entrance of City Hall, vowing to “remain where they are until Beck is fired.”

Garcetti said July 15 that he “continues to support … Beck, despite calls for his ouster.”

Tulloss said, “We’ve developed a plan to bring accountability in California. Our governor … and Attorney General [Kamala Harris] … have not been moved. It is up to us as a community to move them.”

Strategy session participants recommended addressing “the use of police body cameras” and “union contracts, which prohibit officer prosecution, conviction and discipline.”

“We want to create laws around using the cameras and the footage — how cameras will be maintained, who will be able to review footage, etc.,” Kilpatrick said. “Right now, the Police Commission has just said they are going back to revise the current rules.”

“Different things, including the court, the law and the unions, make it very hard to bring officers to justice even if we get them into court,” she added. “The LAPD officer who shot South L.A. resident Ezell Ford has not been brought up on charges. With Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the problem is, once they are brought up on charges, it is so hard for them to be found guilty,” she added.

On July 27, the charges against the last three of six officers charged in Gray’s slaying were dropped, including those against one officer during pre-trial motions. Earlier prosecutions ended in three officer acquittals and one mistrial.

NAN L.A. participants also recommended: “boycotts; criminalizing the falsification of police reports; establishing an independent investigator; not allowing officers to have 48 hours before making a statement; no paid leave for officers who shoot unarmed victims; and impacts on pension funds if shootings are of unarmed victims.”

Strategist called for “engaging other organizations and elected officials including the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus; holding elected officials accountable; and vetting candidates for state attorney general,” if Harris, a candidate for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat, wins in November.

Planners agreed that police officers should have more training to ensure they understand the communities they serve; continued education in use of power; more skills in community policing; personality assessments; and random drug testing.