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Opinion: LAPD’s racial injustice should be met with defunding, not reform

In light of recent protests across the nation that have called attention to the pervasiveness of systemic violence in law enforcement, universities and cities alike must rethink their relationships with local police departments. (MacKenzie Coffman/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Mark McGreal

June 10, 2020 6:54 p.m.

The LAPD works to protect the rights of all persons – at least that’s what its website says.

When it comes to protesters fighting for an end to police brutality, however, the LAPD is all too comfortable dropping this mission entirely.

In a perfect example of situational irony, the LAPD detained dozens of people protesting racial injustice at Jackie Robinson Stadium on June 1. Jackie Robinson, of course, broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier and became a prominent civil rights leader after his playing days ended.

LAPD didn’t just detain these protesters – the officers treated them with malice.

Testimonies from detainees described protesters sitting in cages on buses for hours with no food or water. When released, these people had little idea of where they were and, because of dead phones and a lack of outlets, had no way to call a friend or an Uber.

In a time of great upheaval in our country, when millions of Americans refuse to accept the status quo any longer, the police have a duty to work with the public to figure out solutions to issues of systemic racism. And LAPD’s checkered past when it comes to events like the savage beating of Rodney King makes it even more imperative that the department acts in good conscience. But when they can’t do that, it’s time for universities and cities alike to consider more radical courses of action, like severing ties with racist law enforcement agencies and defunding police squads.

After the incident at Jackie Robinson Stadium came to light, a group of faculty members voiced their dismay at UCLA’s collaboration with the LAPD. These faculty members, who operate under the organization name The Executive Committee of Concerned UCLA Faculty, called for the administration to cut ties with the LAPD.

Professor Ananya Roy, a member of the committee, pointed out that ending the collaboration between schools and police is a measured response, and other colleges are already doing it. Specifically, Roy mentioned the University of Minnesota and its commitment to ending its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department following former MPD police officer Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

“The fact that the president (of the University of Minnesota) took immediate action shows that other universities can do so as well,” Roy said. “So that is a first step.”

Petitions calling for similar ends to police relationships at universities such as New York University, Georgetown University and even UCLA have gained signatures, while Clark University in Massachusetts ended its relationship with Worcester Police on June 3.

This is a great start. But to solve racial injustices in America, more universal reforms must be made.

And not only do they have to be universal, but they must also hit the police in a critical spot – the budget.

Juliet Kucirek, a second-year gender studies student, attended several protests in the past week and said the prevailing sentiment is that the police force needs to be defunded rather than reformed.

“The police department was designed to protect and serve white people’s property,” Kucirek said. “It’s working exactly as it was intended.”

Defunding the police has become a national issue in recent weeks, and a number of politicians have already made commitments to reallocate funds to community services. However, the exact amount of money varies from city to city.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have already made promises to cut the budgets of their cities’ police departments. Garcetti in particular has committed to taking $100 million to $150 million off the LAPD budget, though compared to the department’s almost $2 billion budget, $150 million is barely a drop in the bucket.

Not all politicians agree with defunding the police, of course. Both President Donald Trump and presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden came out against the idea this past week. Some local politicians, such as LA Councilmember Paul Koretz, are trying to avoid taking a definitive side altogether.

“I agree that it was absolutely insensitive and insulting to bring the protestors to the Jackie Robinson stadium to be processed for arrest, as he was a hero whose legacy represents standing up against systemic racism and breaking color barriers,” Koretz said in an emailed statement.

Koretz went on to say an investigation into the event is still pending, and he is waiting for the conclusion of the investigation.

It’s not surprising that Koretz is tiptoeing around the issue.

Koretz has allied himself repeatedly with the police in the past. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the city’s police labor union, donated to each of Koretz’s successful bids for LA City Council in City District 5.

Koretz’s relationship with a police union is sadly not unique. Many local and state politicians are backed by law enforcement agencies and unions that exercise a lot of influence.

But it’s hard to justify a relationship with these agencies when they’ve proven to be volatile to the point of violence in recent days.

It’s easy to say that cutting ties with police agencies and taking money away from law enforcement are radical moves – especially since, when acting appropriately, a well-trained and well-funded police force can mean the difference between life and death for members of the public.

But the LAPD is not a trusted organization for many individuals.

“There’s been continued increase in use of force by LAPD,” Roy said. “So not surprisingly the communities in which I work think of LAPD as the city’s largest gang.”

Instead of ignoring the injustices committed by LAPD or hoping that community service efforts will fix things, it’s time for the city to make a more radical choice.

Otherwise, the police will continue to prioritize order over freedom and property rights over human rights.

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Mark McGreal
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