Lead Story West Edition

Black attorney appointed to Police Commission

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti is adding a second black person to the five-member Los Angeles Police Commission, nominating attorney Cynthia McClain-Hill to the panel June 30.

The move was applauded by local activists and members of the South Los Angeles community.

“Cynthia McClain-Hill is a well-respected and tough-minded community leader and attorney,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author and political analyst, in a statement. “Her appointment is a strong signal that Mayor Garcetti takes seriously the continued need for police reform and is willing to ensure strong oversight of LAPD reform and change. McClain-Hill is a good pick for that.”

McClain-Hill will replace Robert Saltzman, who has served on the commission since 2007. The City Council must approve the nomination, and McClain-Hill said she would not comment on her appointment until it was approved.

As the managing director of Strategic Counsel PLC, McClain-Hill leads the firm’s regulatory, land use and environmental law practices. She has served on a variety of public sector boards and regulatory commissions, including the California Coastal Commission, the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the CalEPA Environmental Justice Advisory Working Group.

If McClain-Hill’s appointment is confirmed, she would be one of two black commissioners, as well as the panel’s third female member. Her appointment comes at a time when the commission is making an effort to reduce shootings by LAPD officers.

Melina Abdullah, a local organizer for Black Lives Matter, said that given McClain-Hill’s track record on civil rights, she is hopeful that the attorney can “reshape the relationship” between the black community and the police force as “cooperative rather than adversarial.”

Abdullah said McClain-Hill attempted to recall Daryl Gates, then-chief of the LAPD, following the 1991 beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers. She also published a political newsletter geared to the black community.

“If she was willing to confront Gates, we’re hopeful she’ll hold [Chief] Charlie Beck accountable,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah expressed gratitude that Garcetti took into consideration a request from Black Lives Matter last July that he nominate “a real community leader” for the position. She said the group had the support of other organizations such as California Faculty Association, The Row Church and several area pastors.

Activist Najee Ali also applauded Garcetti’s actions.

“Mayor Garcetti demonstrated true integrity and political courage for the appointment of someone who fought tooth and nail against him in her support of former mayoral candidate Wendy Gruel,” he said in a statement. “This mayor has the character to put aside political grudges for the best interest of our city.”

As part of the Police Commission, McClain-Hill will take part in supervising the force of 10,000 officers and setting LAPD policies. She also will help decide whether officers demonstrate appropriate use of guns and other uses of force.

Despite her praise of Garcetti, Abdullah said she would like to see more transparency regarding the nomination process. Although the mayor responded to the concerns of Black Lives Matter, Abdullah said he did not engage the community by initiating a forum or dialogue. That was the case, she claimed, not only for the nomination of McClain-Hill, but also for all the commissioners.

For example, Abdullah cited the nomination and successive appointment of Matthew Johnson last year; despite the fact that activist Aqeela Sherrills had the “unanimous support of black L.A. as far south as Watts.” Black Lives Matter led a month-long campaign to get him appointed.

The Rev. Kelvin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church specifically thanked the mayor for regarding the community, even if that did not come in the form of direct engagement with the public.

“We’re grateful to Mayor Garcetti for allowing African-American leadership from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, civil rights activists and pastors to have input on the selection of our new police commissioner,” he said in a statement. “We’re ecstatic about the appointment of McClain-Hill.”