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Questions for Obama’s Police Task Force

inquiring_minds_logoAfter conducting more research into Constance “Connie” Rice I can see she has roots in civil rights work that goes far beyond reforming the LAPD.  She was instrumental in receiving bond proceeds for transit, education and police misconduct.  Ms. Rice also served on the LA NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1991-1996.  How have her contributions directly benefitted minorities?  Let’s see.

In 1996 Ms. Rice filed a $2billion dollar law suit against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) charging Metro was discriminating against low-income patrons by diverting money out of low-income neighborhoods, for transit improvements.  To date Metro was embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Crenshaw Subway Coalitionn over the failure to fund a transit stop, in Leimert Park, on the soon to be completed Crenshaw/LAX line.  The stop has now been budgeted but the coalition is still seeking to have the Park Mesa portion run underground instead of at grade level.  Metro continues to be plagued with inequity issues with Southwest Corridor (South Bay Cities Council of Governments, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Culver City) members voting to remove long serving Metro board member Pam O’Connor with Inglewood Mayor James Butts for the scathing reasons outlined by Beverly Hills councilman John Mirisch.  The 88 cities need to ratify the vote for the replacement and many are wondering if Mayor Butts will join the Metro board at all.

In 1998 Ms. Rice transitioned a successful partnership with law partners Stephen R. English and Molly Munger to found the LA branch of the Advancement Project, a nonprofit committed to making public sector institutions — such as schools, transit, and law enforcement — equitable for low-income residents.  The nonprofit operates on a nearly $14 million dollar budget.

The Advancement Project was instrumental in obtaining Local Control Formula that will start flooding local school districts in the 2015-16 school year, to help repair schools in low-income communities.

The Advancement Project’s hugest accomplishment, in my opinion, is the work they are doing in conjunction with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA).  The work being done in the housing projects is second to none.   I have attended Watts Gang Task Force meetings and saw firsthand the partnership between the residents and the officer’s.  The premise of the Community Safe Partnership was to mandate that officers being assigned to work in HACLA committed to do so for a minimum of five (5) years and become better acquainted with the residents in order to reduce crime.  This is outlined in the COMPREHENSIVE VIOLENCE REDUCTION STRATEGY (CVRS) FRAMEWORK.

Related report:  Citywide Gang Activity Reduction Strategy: Phase III Report The Advancement Project

There are many other moving parts, but this is the simple version.  According to staff inside Watt’s Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office, the CVRS “model” will be replicated to other parts of the city.

I don’t see this as a problem with the “model” for it is cookie cutter and can conceivably work anywhere, the problem lies in the players selected to participate in the “model”.  That is the area I would like to see Connie Rice and her team work on next.  How do we handle those who don’t wish to comply with the department’s mission to work with the community instead of dismantling her hard work?

Voting

I can’t stress enough how important it is to vote.  You can register at your local post office or you can go to LAVote.com and all of your instructions are there.  As depicted in the movie “Selma” being a registered voter allows us to participate in not only the voting process but also having the ability to serve on a jury.  This is crucial for if an officer, accused of misconduct, is ever subjected to a trial, we can participate in deciding guilt or innocence.  This can also backfire if we don’t do our homework on who we are voting for.

Related article:  “Kids for Cash”: Aided and Abetted by “Zero Tolerance” and the “School-to-Prison Pipeline”

Judges

Judges are the most important component to a trial for they provide the jury instructions to decide the fate of the officer in question.  These are also the most low profile races in any election.  Never having debates or campaign mailers, I always tend to vote for no one, since I have no clue who they are.  Why is this crucial to know?  One reason.  Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr.  Ciaveralla campaigned for judge as a democrat and ascended the bench in Philadelphia.  He made the news for being found guilty of taking bribes, from a private prison operator, in a “cash for kids” scandal that rocked the East Coast. We could use Ms. Rice’s legal expertise and position on the board of KPCC to host judge candidate forums to better educate us on who we should be voting for.

Related article:  Mehserle trial goes to Los Angeles, judge rules

Venue

Even after we register and participate in voting, we are still methodically removed from the judgement phase.  So in spite of having the ability to serve on a jury and presumably doing our homework on the candidates, we continue to be removed from the process of holding officers accused of police misconduct because in the State of California, they will move the venue of the trial when it suits their needs.  Oscar Grant was murdered on a train platform in Oakland, CA but his killer’s trial was in Downtown Los Angeles?  Did jury instructions include the standard “reasonable person” test?  I would ask can we change the law, in California, that no longer allows the system to usurp low-income participation in the legal process?

Related article:  Baltimore Sun investigates Undue Force

Economic Sanctions

After voting, educating ourselves and participating, sometimes things called “settlements” occur to avoid a trial.  That hurts.  In those cases of “settlements” there are no methods of justice for the abuser because a “settlement” doesn’t find them before their peers to be judged.  Poor people will take the settlement because they are poor.  Poor people will take the first offer to ensure they get “something”.  It’s proven when the public finds out that the same officers have had multiple run-ins with the same issues.  Police misconduct.   Can the law be changed that no longer allows for public money to be used for paying settlements and/or penalties, committed by law enforcement?  I would go a step further and ask the Advancement Project to look at ways law enforcement unions can provide supplemental insurance, for its members, so in the event one is accused and/or convicted of police misconduct; it comes from a private policy that wouldn’t directly impact our General Fund?  The City of Baltimore, famous for its portrayal in HBO’s The Wire is a benchmark for the actual cost police misconduct costs residents and stymies the city’s growth.  The Baltimore Sun concluded from 2011 through the date of their article, in September 2014, Baltimore paid nearly $5.7 million dollars in settlements.  How many streets could be paved with that?

If the City [Council] continues to approve settlements to be paid out, in exchange for beating residents, how does that maintain goodwill between police and the residents?  All it does is decrease our general fund.  Connie Rice made a great comment at Congresswoman Karen Bass’ Town Hall Meeting that “…the system is designed to protect law enforcement…” well Connie Rice, it’s time to start dismantling the system.  My final question is who will author, sponsor and carry the legislation to passage?  Dr. King worked on the Civil Rights Movement for over a decade.  I believe we have the time, tenacity and patience to see this to fruition.  Don’t you?

 



About Melissa

I am a lifelong Inglewood resident living in District 4. I serve on PTA and School Site Council as Vice-President, for the last 8 years with Inglewood Unified School District. I volunteer on the Wellness Committee for ICEF Public Schools. I am an alumni of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science. You can find me on Twitter under @CreoleMommie

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