DA Jackie Lacey: 'I'm Angry... So Many African American Men Have Been Murdered At The Hands Of Police'
Lita Martinez contributed to this report. This article is based on an interview conducted by AirTalk host Larry Mantle.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Tuesday that she shares the anger of those taking to the streets over the police custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Marches and demonstrations began gaining momentum in Los Angeles last week, with organizers conducting rallies in front of Lacey's office. She's come under fire during her tenure as DA by activists with Black Lives Matter and other groups who say she's done little to hold abusive police officers accountable for their actions.
Lacey spoke today with Larry Mantle, who hosts our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk. She told him that charging a police officer with a crime is difficult, but demonstrators are right to raise the issue.
"I'm angry about the fact that so many African American men have been murdered at the hands of police. And I'm doing the absolute best job that I can as a human being."
Mantle asked Lacey about a caller to the show who said she'd been arrested as part of a group protesting after the curfew was in effect.
"She said she was transported to a facility, was issued a citation and then released," Mantle asked Lacey. "Is that what is typically being done in these cases? Or are any of the curfew violators being referred for prosecution?"
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Lacey said those cases are being deferred, a practice for non-violent offenders that was already in place, due to COVID-19.
Lacey went on to clarify that looting, which is considered a violent crime, is not eligible for zero bail, even if the theft of merchandise is valued under $950, which is typically a misdemeanor. She said because the courts were closed over the weekend and on Monday, they were today seeing the first of those cases and trying to determine which cases warrant a felony charge.
"There could be a scenario where someone comes in to steal food because they're hungry or diapers. That's different," Lacey said. "But some of the cases that we expect will be organized theft rings or stealing things that can easily be sold."
Lacey also was asked about sharp criticism from Black Lives Matter-LA and other protesters.
"Protesters have been highly critical of your tenure as District Attorney," Mantle noted, "believing you haven't done enough to hold abusive police officers to account, for [example], instances where individuals have been killed ... or injured in police custody."
"What's your response to their contention that one of the main things that they're protesting is the job that you've done as District Attorney?"
Lacey said that "charging police officers with a crime is one of the most difficult challenges I've faced as a District Attorney. And part of it has been due to the law that allows officers to use deadly force. Notwithstanding that, where I take issue with my critics is they refuse to give us credit for the 200-plus officers we have filed on since I've been District Attorney. They've refused to even acknowledge that our office has the only case in the state right now involving an officer-involved shooting."
Lacey said she doesn't "make these decisions alone. I have an extremely diverse group of people within the office -- about 20 people sit in and review these cases -- and we talk about them and we talk about race and we talk about bias. But we need to look for solutions."
Among the solutions she mentioned:
- Implementing training for police officers on how to de-escalate a situation
- A law mandating more training, specifically bias training
- Recruiting more African American police officers
- Better screening of recruits
- A neutral investigative team to investigate use of force
She said of criticism from Black Lives Matters organizers: "I think they're right to raise this issue."
Lacey, who noted that she is "an African American woman who grew up in the Crenshaw [neighborhood]," said a lot has changed with the LAPD, but more change is still needed.
"Not everybody is suited for police work," she said. "Certainly the guy who murdered Mr. Floyd, you could look at his face, how he was reacting during the time that he had his knee on Mr Floyd. That's somebody that shouldn't have been in policing to begin with."
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW