Columnists Mayor Eric Garcetti Opinion

COMMUNITY REPORT: Matt Johnson was right for the L.A. Police Commission

By Mayor Eric Garcetti

Contributing Columnist

Some people run from challenges, others rise to them.

Matt Johnson is the kind of leader who turns adversity into strength and always places service before self. That’s why, in 2015, I named him to our Police Commission.

In the midst of an important national discussion about the future of law enforcement in America — a conversation that continues today — Johnson came to the job with the right vision and temperament to guide our police department into a new era. And because he can work with anyone, he could use these skills to make real change.

When I first met Johnson, he was volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club — a commitment he had no reservations making despite the demands of his day job representing some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.

This spirit of service was evident on the commission where Johnson quickly became a leader, guiding new reforms that have made our police department an international model. From his first day on the commission, he was out there building relationships with command staff, riding along with the rank-and-file and sitting down with community members to hear their concerns and hopes.

Power comes from the bottom up, not the top down — and Johnson’s leadership exemplified this truth and paved the way for a new era in the department.

When I became mayor, I committed to making the Los Angeles Police Department a model for 21st century policing — a department that would not only keep our neighborhoods safe and reduce crime, but also better understand and work alongside the people we serve. And Johnson helped make that happen.

Together, we changed the use-of-force policy to help reduce officer-involved shootings — now down 21 percent over last year — and made sure every officer received training in de-escalation and implicit bias. We strengthened trust with our communities by focusing on relationship-based policing and putting transparency and accountability at the center of everything we do — outfitting every patrol officer with a body camera and implementing new policies that make video evidence quickly available to the public.

Johnson has been a driving force behind those reforms — unafraid to push the command staff or my office to hasten change. To look back at Johnson’s tenure on the commission is to see a police department that, during good times and bad, never stops working to better reflect L.A.’s values of equal justice, tolerance, compassion and decency.

While we’re far ahead of most cities, we still have a way to go. My pledge to reform, diversify and grow the LAPD is not an end goal — it’s a never-ending pursuit. And now that Johnson is leaving the commission to turn his focus to what’s most important in all of our lives — family — I’ve nominated former U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker to carry the work forward. Like Johnson, Decker’s sense of justice will help ensure the LAPD continues to evolve and grow.

Reflecting on Johnson’s time on the commission, it is clear that while he did not wear the same badge as those who wear our city’s uniform, he held dear the sacred promise all sworn officers make: to protect and to serve. For three years, he did just that — and L.A. is stronger because of that leadership.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs the first Thursday of every month in The Wave.