Charter Amendment C is a city measure on the May 16 Los Angeles ballot. Angelenos will also vote for city council members and LA Unified School District board members during the May 16 elections.
Plainly read, Charter Amendment C, might seem to uphold democracy by holding police accountable. In reality, it will do nothing to improve oversight of the Los Angeles Police Department and could actually hurt the department’s accountability.
Charter Amendment C, if adopted, would allow the city council to pass an ordinance – which it likely would – that would give an officer accused of misconduct the option to be heard from a board composed of three civilians. The board, known as the Board of Rights, is currently called on to evaluate instances of officer misconduct worthy of termination reported by the LAPD chief.
The Board of Rights determines if the officer in question should be acquitted or disciplined, after which the police chief can impose the suggested penalty or a lesser one. Currently, the board is composed of two LAPD officers and one civilian member.
But the board isn’t in dire need of any changes to its composition, and more civilian inclusion doesn’t necessarily translate to better police oversight. One analysis showed that civilian members of the board have consistently voted more leniently than officers have. Between 2011 and November 2016, the civilian member sided with the majority every time the board voted to acquit an officer.
Moreover, the measure does not truly address the LAPD’s underlying problems: The issue isn’t that police aren’t being given severe enough punishments for misconduct, but that there’s misconduct in the first place.
Charter Amendment C is little more than a move by the LAPD union for more lenient punishments for officers charged with misconduct. On top of that, the measure would cost the LAPD about $280,000 a year, just to have two additional civilians on the board.
The measure can hardly be called reform at all. Rather it’s a mess of a proposal that deserves rejection.