Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — The civilian panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department will soon have a vacancy, with the panel’s vice president, Matt Johnson, saying he will be stepping down from the panel.
Johnson told the Los Angeles Times he wants to spend more time with his four children, the youngest of whom are 5 and 8, but said he was proud of advancements he helped spearhead while on the Los Angeles Police Commission, most notably efforts to cut down on officer-involved shootings by emphasizing de-escalation tactics.
“You look at our officer-involved shooting numbers this year, and you can see our de-escalation training, deployment of less-lethal tools, all of that stuff is really starting to have an impact,” Johnson said. “We’re down 30 percent. That’s massive.”
A formal announcement from the city about his departure is not expected until Sept. 20, according to the mayor’s office.
Johnson, who is black, was appointed to the commission in 2015. He led efforts on departmental changes that earned him the ire of some local Black Lives Matter activists who faulted him for working within the system instead of tearing it down, The Times reported. At Police Commission meetings, some called him a “house negro,” while others sought to confront him at his home and office, according to the newspaper.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who appoints the police commissioners, told The Times that Johnson was the driving force behind many of the department’s recent changes.
“He came in at a very urgent moment that was not just about keeping the peace but about ensuring that lives are saved in future,” Garcetti told the paper.
Using a methodical, collaborative style perfected as an entertainment lawyer striking deals for Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams and the Obamas, Johnson persuaded the police union and top LAPD officials to support his agenda, The Times reported. He argued that the LAPD is more transparent, better trained and better equipped, with a de-escalation policy intended to prevent deadly shootings.
Coupled with the recent resignation of Cynthia McClain-Hill, a black attorney who pushed for better community relations and racial bias training for police officers, Johnson’s departure marks the end of an era for the five-member Police Commission, according to the Times.
Dale Bonner, who is executive chairman of a public infrastructure company and is also a black attorney, has taken McClain-Hill’s seat. Johnson’s replacement has not yet been announced.