Reconciliation? Better Citizen Oversight? Experts Weigh In On How They Would Fix The LAPD

LAPD officers confront protestors at a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In the wake of this month's protests against systemic racism and police brutality, those who seek to reform the LAPD have focused primarily on defunding the department. KPCC's Take Two has asked various experts and thought leaders what other measures, if any, they think might work as well.

Some argue that change can happen even if the LAPD's budget were to remain untouched.

Here's how our sources think the department can start to do better by the community.

David Kennedy
Author of "Don't Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America," and criminal justice professor at John Jay College specializing in police-community relations.

1. The LAPD should start a reconciliation process with the community

Taking a cue from the reconciliation process in post-Apartheid South Africa, Kennedy argues that this would be an important step for the LAPD to start regaining trust among L.A.'s black community.

The process includes the department owning up to what it's done, hearing the experiences of those who've been harmed, committing to repair and committing to doing better going forward.

"[Reconciliation] is the closest thing to magic I've ever seen," said Kennedy, "but only if it is understood that it is not legitimate and authentic if it is not about repair."

Erroll Southers
Director of the Safe Communities Institute at USC and co-creator of an LAPD community policing training program

1. Make community-oriented policing and the Law Enforcement Advanced Development certificate program through USC part of the LAPD budget

Community-oriented policing is devoted to improving officers' relationship with the people they serve. Instead of only reacting to crime, the police might also talk with community leaders one-on-one about simpler problems that could be fixed, such as fixing lights in alleyways.

"They'd work with the community to put a solution together, present it to LAPD command staff, and then try to operationalize it," said Southers.

This practice has many benefits, but one is that it raises trust in the police among neighborhood children. If they grow up to join the force, then the demographic of the officers better reflects the area.

The LEAD program taught many of these ideas to officers, but the grant funding ran out three years ago. Southers argues that it should be an essential part of the LAPD budget.

2. Create a police commission filled with citizens

In Long Beach, an independent oversight board of which Southers was once a part is stacked with civilians who review all allegations of misconduct.

"They had subpoena power, they had the power to investigate," said Southers.

The LAPD does have a police commission, but its board is filled with people appointed by the mayor, and it's also charged with addressing things like equipment and personnel.

Southers believes LAPD should have a citizen commission similar to Long Beach's, focused only on officer misconduct.

3. Create an independent, national database to track officers' records

If an officer commits misconduct in one department, there's little stopping him or her from getting a new job elsewhere. Personnel files between police departments are not shared regularly, or an officer may resign if they get wind of an impending firing to keep their record clean as they look for new work.

Southers believes there should be a national database to track problem officers.

"They should be in that database and be prohibited by law from serving as a police officer ever again in any state," he said.

Greg Meyer
Retired LAPD captain and expert on police use-of-force

1. Make it a requirement for officers to intervene if they see another officer committing abuse.

It's not uncommon for Meyer to see officers turn a blind eye to misconduct committed by their colleagues.

Requiring intervention, he says, should be an explicit policy at all departments.

"The challenge is how to make this an operational norm across agencies big and small: 'Yes, I AM my brother's/sister's keeper,'" he said.

2. Reform the discipline process, and make consequences stick

"A wise deputy chief I worked for almost 30 years ago often said, 'We discipline far too many, and we fire far too few,'" recalled Meyer.

He argues that the LAPD should reform the way it fires officers.

"The courts and arbitrators and civil service commissions have a really sorry record for returning fired officer misfits back to duty," he said.

Like Southers, he suggests that a national database of problem officers could be a step towards a solution.

3. Don't think that defunding the LAPD is a silver bullet to reform

Meyer believes that many of the protesters stated goals could be accomplished even while leaving the LAPD budget untouched.

"Society's problems are much bigger than the police," he said. "We've got poverty, education, employment opportunities, economic challenges that foster crime."

But he believes that taking away police funding will hurt the department, especially since LAPD is being asked to provide more training and accountability.