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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.

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