Holding LAPD Accountable
We cannot expect the LAPD to police itself without oversight. True accountability for police officers is a critical and necessary first step towards regaining the public’s trust. As LA’s City Attorney, I will advocate for the creation of an independent body that will fairly and impartially investigate the public's complaints against police officers.
In order to disrupt the culture of impunity that has developed amongst our police force, public officials must ensure that each police transgression is appropriately investigated and addressed. As it stands, most police officers are not held accountable for documented incidents of racial bias and excessive force, regardless of the impact these encounters have upon victims. The absence of consequences only encourages more officers to employ heavy-handed and illegal tactics to police communities of color.
As City Attorney, I will engage in regular internal audits of LAPD’s compliance with constitutional rights and track the progress they make in fulfilling promises of reform. I will treat residents fairly and equitably, prioritizing the rights of the people over the rights of the powerful. I will protect Angelenos from abuses of power, and hold those who betray the public trust accountable. I will not allow people in positions of authority to hide behind the law, or use it to evade consequences.
Replace LAPD Internal Affairs with an Independent Inspector General
The LAPD’s Internal Affairs has consistently failed in its role as an oversight body. To remedy this, and create a system which leads to real accountability, the LA City Charter must be amended in order to allow the Inspector General's office to investigate all incidents of police misconduct. The current system – under which the LAPD has been granted the authority to police itself – has failed the citizens of Los Angeles. We must remove the Internal Affairs function from the police department and instead place all complaints under the investigative jurisdiction of an independent and objective Inspector General's office with its own staff and investigators.
The Inspector General cannot be “independent” in name only. They must be truly independent and wholly removed from the bureaucratic and political structures of the LAPD. In order to ensure their independence, the Inspector General will be selected by 3 people: the mayor, the City Council president and the City Attorney.
Amending the City Charter to allow for this reform is the ultimate goal. However, in the meantime, I will take steps within my office to provide for oversight. I will create an independent office within the City Attorney’s office, walled off from the Police Defense Unit, that is devoted to investigating and overseeing the LAPD and its compliance with state, local and federal laws.
“No Cop Money” Pledge
I am firmly committed to police reform. As such, I have joined fellow progressives in taking the No Cop Money Pledge:
I pledge not to accept contributions or endorsements from police or correctional officer unions or associations and instead prioritize the protection of Black lives and our communities over police union influence and the incarceration industry.
Make LAPD Body Camera Video Available to the Public
Another important component of accountability is transparency. As City Attorney, I will guarantee that LAPD body camera video footage is quickly made available in the aftermath of incidents of police violence. I will also ensure that this footage, when it is publicly released, protects the privacy of victims, witnesses and bystanders.
As a civil rights attorney, I recently won a settlement on behalf of Antone Austin, a Hollywood music producer who was racially profiled and wrongfully arrested by the LAPD in 2019. I fought – and won – to have the LAPD body camera footage made public, proving the allegations that Austin was racially profiled before his arrest. Throughout the case, the current LA City Attorney demonstrated little care for achieving justice in the case. I am running for City Attorney so that I can bring my experience as a reformer and civil rights attorney to the office and restore trust and transparency in local government.
Establish a Special Review Process for Arrests by Officers with Histories of Misconduct
As City Attorney, I will create a list of police officers with a history of misconduct or other credibility issues. Such issues could include reported incidents involving, for example, racial profiling, lying during testimony, excessive force or bias, among other things. Arrests made by the officers on this list will either be subject to special review, or, depending on the circumstances, my office may decline to accept these cases.
Building robust Brady List databases is crucial to making this system work. A Brady List is an internal database that prosecutors use to track police officers and government witnesses who have engaged in or faced accusations of official misconduct. The name comes from a 1963 Supreme Court case called Brady v. Maryland, which decided that a prosecutor has a duty to disclose all material evidence that is favorable to the defense. Subsequent cases have expanded this obligation to include anything a prosecutor knows that may impeach the credibility of an officer or expert witness.
Maintaining accurate and up-to-date Brady lists will also allow prosecutors in the City Attorney’s office to more effectively improve local policing practices by identifying concerning patterns with particular officers or departments.
Bring Civilian Oversight to the LAPD
Civilian oversight is another important component of holding law enforcement accountable when their actions violate the public’s trust and abuse citizens. As such, Civilian Oversight Entities (COEs) can both improve public safety and deter police misconduct, providing for a more just and equitable system for all Angelenos.
Prosecutors rely on public trust to promote public safety. When communities don’t trust law enforcement officers or agencies, they are less likely to be willing to cooperate with them, because they don’t trust that the outcomes will be fair. Right now, many Los Angeles residents, particularly in communities of color, don’t trust law enforcement. Why? Because of a pattern of systemic abuse, racialized enforcement and impunity that has continued unabated for decades. COEs will not resolve that long-standing crisis of trust overnight, but they can play a part in the remedy.
In order to function effectively, civilian oversight entities must be given expansive jurisdiction and scope. For starters, while investigative powers are important – such as those granted to civilian review boards, which have the authority to investigate civilian-initiated allegations of misconduct – COEs must also possess the authority to mandate accountability and reforms. Without this binding authority, COEs will be able to discover systemic patterns of abuse, but will lack the tools to disrupt or end these abuses.
LAPD Civil Suits
Los Angeles needs a City Attorney who will not cover up police misconduct by settling lawsuits. When a civilian sues the city, it’s the City Attorney who takes that case because it’s their job to defend the city – and, by extension, its police force – in lawsuits. If I’m elected, that will still be the City Attorney’s role. However, I will not abuse this role. I will not use this power to act as a shield for police wrongdoing, or to hide the truth from the public. I will carry out my legal duties, but I will do so openly, publicly and impartially. I will not twist the truth or hide evidence in order to defend actions that are clearly indefensible. I’ll allow these actions to be exposed for what they are, regardless of the consequences.
In California, a resident must file a Claim for Damages against a public entity before suing that entity. The government then decides whether or not to accept your claim and provide the damages requested. If your claim is denied – which 99.9% of claims are – then you can file a lawsuit.
In the past, the manner in which these claims and lawsuits have been handled by the City Attorney’s office has been arbitrary, at best, and overtly biased, at worst. For example, lawsuits filed by families of the victims of police killings have had their claims denied and have been sent to trial, whereas white police officers who have sued the city for “reverse racism” have had their claims accepted and have received immediate payouts from the city.
Another issue with the government’s handling of LAPD lawsuits and settlements is the lack of transparency. The current City Attorney has repeatedly failed to disclose the number of legal payouts the city has made, whether through settlements or court judgements. Yet, according to the LA Times, over the past 5.5 years, Los Angeles paid out $245+ million to resolve legal claims against the LAPD. This number represents more than one third of all of the city’s liability payouts during that time. These numbers are only likely to increase after the spasm of excessive violence and rights violations that occurred during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the ensuing lawsuits.
As City Attorney, I will commit to maintaining an open, transparent and searchable database of cases the city has settled, which protects victims’ privacy but includes the amount that was paid out and a rationale for why that decision was made.
I will also use the settlement process to prevent future harm. If an officer is a repeat offender, for example, I will use my discretion to provide for censure of that officer as a term of the settlement.
I will also voice support for the LAPD sharing the costs of settlements that arise from police wrongdoing.
Act as the Attorney for the People of Los Angeles (Not the LAPD)
Los Angeles needs a City Attorney that will not continue with the status quo: covering up police misconduct, secretively settling cases behind closed doors, and failing to hold the LAPD accountable for their actions. We need a City Attorney who will stand up for the citizens of Los Angeles and for the most vulnerable among us, rather than those who hold the most power. I will be that City Attorney. My role may include defending the city, and by extension, the LAPD, when lawsuits are brought against it. However, I will use that role – and the responsibility that comes with it – to shine a light on misconduct and bring transparency to the relationship between the city, the LAPD, and the public. I will not act as a shield for the LAPD, because I am not elected to defend the police; I am elected to defend the city of Los Angeles and the people that make up that city.