NAJEE’S NOTES: Can’t blame LAPD in mall shooting

The killing of Grechario Mack by Los Angeles police officers April 10 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall has been the talk of South L.A. this week.

The Crenshaw Mall has always been a safe place for our community and it’s an establishment that I frequent regularly. The issue was of great importance to me.

Number one, a black man was killed by law enforcement, which seems to continue to be an unfortunate national epidemic. I needed to get to the truth of what happened. I went to the mall the following day to talk to some of the store owners and employees I have been friends with over the last 25 years and the truth is they all said something similar that the this was a justified shooting and tragedy.

The eyewitnesses at the scene say Mack posed a serious threat to their safety. Mack, 30, was shot after he allegedly refused commands to drop the knife died at the scene.

According to family members, Mack was mentally ill and on medications. I feel tremendous empathy toward his grieving family and wish this tragedy hadn’t happened. But now is the time for real talk.

No matter how badly I feel personally that a brother was killed by police, I can’t just ignore the fact that he was armed. As a community, we shouldn’t rush to defend community members armed with a deadly weapon.

If Mack had run through the mall stabbing people, I’m confident there would have been an outcry of why couldn’t 10 police officers not stop Mack from injuring or killing someone?

The Los Angeles Police Department, in this case, made the tough but right call. There is no such thing as shooting to harm or shooting to injure. That method is not taught in any police academy where gun training is involved.

On a more positive note. I received a call the day after the Mack shooting with an invitation to a small private meeting of community leaders with LAPD Assistant Chief Phil Tingirides and members of the LAPD command staff. The outreach and communication by LAPD leaderships continues to be the key in forging a better relationship with our community and to help to improve community relations and restore public confidence and trust.

I’ve been a big fan of Tingirides and his wife, Lt. Emada Tingirides, for years. They represent the best in the LAPD and demonstrate how much positive change and growth the department has undergone since the days of former Chief Darryl Gates.

The city’s housing authority gave the LAPD $5 million in 2011 to help create programs. Focusing on some of South L.A.’s toughest housing developments, officers worked alongside residents and community members to repair fractured relationships. A Girls Scout troop of about 150 was formed, as well as a track team. A college scholarship program was formed and the Watts Bears, a football team of children ages 9 to 11, almost single handedly helped stem gang violence and homicides by giving at-risk youth a chance to play against each other instead of being future gang rivals.

That’s the type of progressive leadership the LAPD needs for its present and future. Deputy Chief Tingirides isn’t just a great leader, he’s also a U.S. Army veteran who began his career with the Los Angeles Police Department in February 1980. His first assignment was in the Southeast Area.

Over the next 27 years he worked assignments in patrol, vice, Metropolitan Division, gangs, detectives, and administrative positions. In July 2007, as a captain, he returned to Southeast as the area commanding officer.

Over the next eight years, Chief Tingirides worked closely with the community of Watts, focusing on youth, breaking down barriers and building relationships with a community that had been at odds with law enforcement for decades. The Community Safety Partnership program implemented in Watts focuses on changing the culture of policing in such communities.

Deputy Chief Tingirides is now assigned to Operations-South Bureau as the commanding officer overseeing South Los Angeles.

Tingirides earned his degree in criminal justice at National University in 2014. With his wife, he was recognized as one of Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year in 2015 and received the Helene and Joseph Sherwood Prize from the Anti-Defamation League in 2016 for combatting hate.

The Tingirides have a blended family of six kids ranging in ages from 14 to 28 years old and aren’t looked at as officers by the residents of Watts. There looked at as family by our South L.A. community. That’s based on the years of community partnership at the grassroots level combined with their hard work to help our community members who need it most.

So, my confidence is in this type of LAPD leadership and culture the Tingirides have established within the LAPD under their leadership. Hopefully we can work together as a community to help prevent future tragedies such as the one our community experienced this week at the Crenshaw Mall.

For news tips, email or follow me on Twitter@Najeeali.

NAJEE’S NOTES: Black men are still getting shot and killed

It was 50 years ago that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Fifty years later, black men, women and children continue to be shot and killed nationwide by police who are sworn to protect them.

The police killing of Stephon Clark of Sacramento March 18, a young African-American who was unarmed, has reignited tensions and distrust between law enforcement and the black community.

And with good reason.

On Feb. 4, Anthony A.J. Weber was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County Sherriff’s deputy who claimed that Weber had a gun. No gun was found.

I don’t have enough space to list the names of the several dozen African Americans who have been unarmed and killed by law enforcement nationwide. Some of those killings have been captured on video tape.

And even with video, 99 percent of the law enforcement officers have walked away with no prosecution or punishment.

The dream that King had has turned into a nightmare. Yes, there has been some progress for African Americans. But we still have high numbers in unemployment, lack of quality schools, access to quality health care, victims of mass incarceration.

We continue to suffer the ills of society in record numbers.

The best way to honor King is to continue to fight back against economic and social injustice. And there are several South L.A. grassroots groups who continue to answer that call, ranging from Justice for Murdered Children, Southern California Ceasefire Committee, Sanctuary of Hope and the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, just to name a few.

As activists continue to fill the gap, our local and state elected officials must draft public policy that will protect us from police abuse. And one champion has stepped up front and center to do that.

Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego this week announced proposed legislation in a packed hearing room at the state Capitol, flanked by advocates from the ACLU, Black Lives Matter in Sacramento and the grandfather of Stephon Clark.

The bill would largely restrict police from using deadly force except in scenarios where it is necessary to protect human life.

“We know that our police officers have the capacity to do this, because they do it every day in other communities,” said Weber, who specifically mentioned police apprehending the Parkland shooter and the Charleston church shooter — two white men.

“It’s not like it’s strange or unusual. So what we have to do is make sure that the knowledge that they have and the skills that they have is now applied to the African Americans that they meet every day on the streets.”

California’s current use-of-force laws date back to 1872. They allow officers to use “reasonable” force to make an arrest or overcome resistance.

“If the person to be arrested either flees or forcibly resists, the officer may use all necessary means to effect the arrest,” reads one section.

The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed officers wide discretion about what constitutes reasonable force.

Some law enforcement agencies, including the NYPD, San Francisco Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice, require their officers use a higher standard, similar to the California proposal, where deadly force is only justified when necessary to immediately protect lives.

Shaun Rundle of the California Peace Officers Association says his organization will evaluate the proposed changes in the bill, but he expresses some skepticism.

“We just have some thoughts that to assume right now that an officer does not consider all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to deadly force is, I think, somewhat inaccurate,” Rundle said.

Support or opposition by law enforcement groups could decide whether the bill becomes law. They hold great sway in Sacramento, and, in recent years, attempts to standardize the use of body cameras and to release more police records have failed when those groups have argued they could put officers at risk.

For news tips, email or follow me on Twitter@Najeeali.

NAJEE’S NOTES: Operation HOPE to hold annual global forum

A large delegation of civic and corporate leaders from Los Angeles will be in Atlanta next week to join more than 4,000 delegates from across the world for the annual HOPE Global Forums, a call to re-imagine the global economy so the benefits and opportunities of free enterprise can be extended to everyone.

The event is organized by Operation HOPE CEO and Founder John Hope Bryant and includes conferences and policy programs to build leadership around free enterprise.

The annual meeting is the largest gathering of leaders in the world on behalf of empowering poor and underserved communities.

I’m honored to be part of the Los Angeles delegation. I first met Bryant more than 20 years ago as a member of the New Leaders, a group for young professionals he co-founded. In fact, he’s the reason I was an invited guest and our organization was invited to a special reception we hosted at the White House during the Clinton administration.

He’s been a real brother to me ever since. Over the years I have proudly watched him grow as a global leader whose commitment to the underserved is inspiring.

HOPE Global Forums are an initiative of Operation HOPE, the global leader in providing financial dignity. Founded in 1992, Operation HOPE is the nation’s first nonprofit financial services network for underserved communities.

The mission of Operation HOPE is “silver rights” empowerment – uplifting individuals and communities by making free enterprise work for everyone.

That is accomplished through shifting the economic landscape for youth, adults and families.

Operation HOPE has helped convert check-cashing customers into bank customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners and minimum wage workers into living wage workers.

Operation HOPE is rated four-stars by Charity Navigator for transparency and accountability, its highest rating available.

To date, HOPE has served more than 2 million individuals; directed more than $1.5 billion in private capital to low-wealth communities; utilized over 20,000 HOPE Corps volunteers and currently serves more the 300 cities around the world.

Its impact is measured through the Gallup-HOPE Index, a historic 100-year partnership with Gallup.

Bryant is an American entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and prominent thought leader on financial inclusion, economic empowerment and financial dignity.

The last five U.S. presidents have recognized his work and he has served as an advisor to the last three sitting U.S. presidents, from both political parties. He is responsible for financial literacy becoming the policy of the U.S. federal government.

In January 2016 Bryant became the only private American citizen to inspire the renaming of a building on the White House campus, when the U.S. Treasury Annex Building was renamed the Freedman’s Bank Building. The Freedman’s Banks’ legacy has become the narrative of the work of Operation HOPE — to help all people in the “invisible class” become fully integrated into the nation’s economy.

Last April, a historical marker, also inspired by Bryant, to honor the final flight of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis on April 3, 1968, was installed at the Memphis International Airport 49 years to the day that Eastern Flight 381 arrived from Atlanta.

A member of the founding class of the Forum of Young Global Leaders, and a founding member of Clinton Global Initiative, Bryant is a LinkedIn influencer, a contributor to Huffington Post, THRIVE Global and Black Enterprise, and a member of the World Economic Forum and OECD Expert Networks.

His Facebook Live “Silver Rights” Series has received more than 40 million views and serves as a platform to foster discussion in the digital age around financial inclusion and social uplift.

One of the featured speakers at the HOPE Forum is civil rights icon Andrew Young. He was a key confidant and strategist to Martin Luther King Jr. during the critical years of the civil rights movement.

In 1972 he was elected to represent Georgia’s Fifth District in Congress, the first African-American elected from the South since Reconstruction. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the first African-American to do so. In that role, Ambassador Young established the framework for international negotiations that led to democracy in several nations in Southern Africa.

Young served as mayor of Atlanta from 1982-1990, bringing jobs and $70 billion in private investment to the city during a recession. Ambassador Young’s leadership, vision and global reputation were instrumental in bringing the Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1996.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is also a featured speaker. For nearly 50 years, Jackson has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for peace, civil rights, empowerment, gender equality and economic and social justice the world over.

For news tips, email or follow me on Twitter@Najeeali.