As we celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this week, words like “darkness” and “hate” are thrown around by city leaders as though they are some abstract windmill to be tilted at, not the embodiment of centuries of death and brutality forced on Black people that Dr. King understood it to be. Present at these festivities has been the LAPD, today’s vanguard of this death and brutality, with half of the city’s discretionary budget at their disposal.
Tweets and Instagram posts from both the LAPD’s official account and the Los Angeles Police Protective League shamelessly participate in performative adoration of Dr. King, citing his commitment to love and empathy as values upheld by these institutions. Official veneration for an advocate of nonviolence is incompatible with the City of Los Angeles. The shooting deaths of 18 Angelenos in 2021, five of which occurred in the final days of the year, are indicative of that fact.
While police pulled the trigger, it should go without saying that city leaders are responsible for these deaths, having created social conditions in which police are the primary way the city responds to poverty and health needs.
Many of those murdered by the LAPD were experiencing mental health crises, and a large share were unhoused. While police pulled the trigger, it should go without saying that city leaders are responsible for these deaths, having created social conditions in which police are the primary way the city responds to poverty and health needs. Housing, health, and safety are scarce in our city. Policing is the only guarantee.
As housing costs skyrocket and five unhoused Angelenos die each day, the city refuses to invest in permanent affordable housing. Instead, they choose to increase criminalization of unhoused communities and use police to violently displace Angelenos.
LAPD is spreading death in our communities, in so many ways. As we approach year three of the pandemic, we have seen the LAPD continue to skirt Covid guidelines, spreading the virus to vulnerable community members, defying vaccine mandates, and even attending far-right anti-vaccine rallies in uniform. City leaders have had ample time to hold these officers accountable but instead coddle them.
Police violence cannot be reformed, only defunded in favor of investments that actually improve safety. LAPD is a constant source of danger. It was a “model cop” – a “community outreach” officer who had claimed to improve the police’s relationships to the communities they hunt – that charged headfirst into a department store to fire a high-powered rifle at a man standing several feet away without a gun. The officer offered zero warning or hesitation, also taking the life of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta in his thirst for killing. Likewise, LAPD’s June 30 bombing of a South Central neighborhood was a deliberate publicity stunt that resulted in devastating damage to the residents and the deaths of Auzie Houchins and Ramon Reyes. LAPD has yet to make whole the people it displaced, many of whom remain homeless, yet in November issued a demand for millions of dollars in new funding to replace the equipment it catastrophically detonated.
This embarrassingly long list of crimes by LAPD has produced no accountability from public officials. The Board of Police Commissioners has shown itself to be a hollow confederacy of yes-men. In December, Commission President Briggs – an entertainment lawyer appointed by Mayor Garcetti – announced that criticism of LAPD and calls to divert police funding were “not grounded in reality.” The reality President Briggs wishes to reinforce is one rooted in white supremacy. To him, a reality where we are collectively liberated from constant state violence should remain a dream.
The LAPD’s response to any semblance of accountability is to ask for increased funding. Their 2022-2023 Budget Proposal demands a $213M budget increase over the current year, which would amount to a 52% increase through the past decade. The false narratives being sown to justify this increase is one of a city that has devolved into a crime-ridden hellscape when in fact the LAPD’s own data – no doubt skewed in favor of police narratives – shows an overall property crime decrease of 6.6% from 2019. The other narrative is a city reckoning with a defunded police force when in reality the LAPD budget was increased by 3% from the previous year and 48% during Mayor Garcetti’s term.
LAPD will continue to enrich itself to the detriment of the community. They do not seek to nurture or protect this city. Instead they wish to keep securing resources used to control, brutalize, and kill Angelenos. The choice to continue funding this violence is a commitment to the legacy of racial domination that Dr. King gave his life to ending.
In assessing the LAPD’s ballooning budget during the last decade, Dr. King’s words come to mind: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
Paula Minor and Matyos Kidane