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Meeting on next police chief draws little interest

WATTS — The city of Los Angeles is in the process of selecting a new chief of police and the public’s input is a big part of the process.

With that in mind, members of the Los Angeles Police Commission made their way to Edwin Markham Middle School Feb. 20 for the fourth of six community meetings designed to get public input on what kind of person should replace Police Chief Charlie Beck after he retires June 27.

Commissioner Matthew Johnson, vice president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill, and Richard Tefank, executive director of the Los Angeles Police Commission, attended the meeting, which drew about 50 people on a chilly winter’s night.

The panel of commissioners changes at every community meeting.

The night started with Johnson explaining the process, the importance of the meeting and what the commission hopes to accomplish.

The meeting quickly gave way to public comments

“I think these meetings are important and I think the concerns being raised by the community are the right concerns,” Johnson said. “It’s more reaffirming to hear the issues I think are important.”

A sparse crowd attended the community forum at Edwin Markham Middle School Feb. 20 to hear what the public had to say about the selection of the next Los Angeles police chief. (Photo by Jacqueline Fernandez)

Lupita Carballo, who said she has lived in Watts her whole life, was one of the many participants to share their thoughts. She is a youth organizer for the Youth Justice Coalition.

“I’m a voice for the voiceless,” she said. “I work with youth. I’m very familiar with the community and I just feel that too much money goes to the police.

“Growing up I never saw any communication with the youth from the police, it’s just arresting, there is no alternative.”

“We had a peace builder at our school. He actually talks with the youth and builds relationships with them, so if there was a shooting he would know what was wrong with that individual.”

It addition to speaking out at the community meetings, the Police Commission is encouraging residents to fill out a survey online.

The Los Angeles Police Department Personnel Department and the Police Commission created the survey based on surveys in other cities. There have been a number of high profile police chief searches recently – so local officials used their process as a guide.

“We are going to take the information from these community meetings, what we gather from the surveys, the advice people email in, and what we collect at smaller meetings with community organizations to create a brochure that will be presented to those applying for the position,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that the information from the surveys would inform which questions are asked to potential candidates.

There is a set of written questions with the initial application. Those who are invited for a formal interview will have to answer a second set of questions.

“There is lot of the information that we gather from all of these different sources that will help us formulate the questions that we ask the candidates,” Johnson said

Under the City Charter, the city will advertise the job, then the Personnel Department narrows down the list of candidates to hand over to the Police Commission, the five-member panel that oversees the LAPD.

The panel recommends the top three candidates to the mayor, who makes the final decision. Next, the City Council must approve the mayor’s choice.

Bahni Turpin, a South Los Angeles resident, found out about the meeting earlier that day through colleagues.

“It [meeting] was much shorter than I thought it would be,” Turpin said.

“I don’t have high expectations of change given the current climate, but it would be great. People are asking for the same across the board: fairness, to stop racial profiling, targeting, but are we going to get that?”

The next community meeting will be Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. at the West L.A. Municipal Building. The public can also fill out the survey through the LAPS website at http://www.lapdonline.org/.