Police Union Excoriates Mayor Over Budget Cuts, 'Killers' Comment
In a stern rebuke, the union that represents the Los Angeles Police Department lashed out at Mayor Eric Garcetti today over budget cutbacks and his comments labeling officers as "killers." The union also called into question the mayor's mental fitness to lead the city through crisis.
On Friday, speaking at a press conference live-streamed on Facebook, Jamie McBride, director of the L.A. Police Protective League, said: "We're here to warn the citizens and residents of Los Angeles that we're worried and concerned about Eric Garcetti. He's clearly unstable. We are worried about him and worried about his future, and the safety of our citizens. He is more interested in his image and how he's looked upon, as opposed to being a leader in difficult times."
Activists and community groups, including Black Lives Matter, have taken to the streets to protest years of police brutality and discrimination. The current unrest was sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, but resentment has been simmering for years. Many activists have pointed out that police violence is not necessarily on the rise. Instead, they say social media and the ubiquity of smartphones and video cameras has simply brought it to light.
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Under pressure from protesters, whose demands include a radical defunding of police, Garcetti earlier this week called for cuts of up to $250 million from the city's budget, including the LAPD, and the reallocation of that money to programs that reinvest in communities of color. Yesterday, speaking at the First AME Church in Los Angeles, he defended his decision and framed it as an important step in tackling police brutality across the nation.
"Los Angeles not only can lead, we must lead," Garcetti said. "I got calls from mayors around the country, some of them saying 'I'm so excited,' and other ones saying, 'What the hell'd you do? Now I gotta shift money.' That's the point. It starts someplace, and we say we are going to be who we want to be, or we're going to continue being the killers that we are."
During his press conference on Facebook, McBride called the mayor's remarks "offensive," "wrong," and "suspicious," and said Garcetti will "say and do anything to get people to like him."
"We are honestly concerned about his mental health, and I think that he should seek some help, and maybe have someone to talk to, a counselor or something, and reflect on some of his decisions, reflect on his ability to lead the city and keep the citizens safe," said McBride, a 30-year LAPD veteran.
Garcetti told NBC4 today: "I wasn't speaking in the way that [the union] would twist it around. And I'll push back against anybody. I said all of us, meaning 100% of us as Americans, we make a choice to allow death to happen in this country."
McBride claimed Garcetti directed what many called an overly aggressive response to protesters in the Fairfax District last weekend, when patrol cars were burned and officers opened fired on protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas.
He said "his understanding" was that LAPD Chief Michel Moore was taking direction from the mayor on many of the tactical decisions during the protests. In responding to a reporter's question, McBride said he felt those decisions were politically motivated. He said a police chief can easily become a "political puppet" because they are appointed by a democratically-elected mayor.
The union has "lost confidence in [the mayor's] ability to manage this crisis, to keep the citizens of Los Angeles safe. So there's no vote of confidence required -- we've already lost the confidence," McBride said.
McBride argued that the LAPD has implemented "virtually all" of the recommendations laid out by President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, launched after the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
He said cuts to the police department will make the community less safe, leading to delayed response times to 911 calls, causing "crime to go out of control," and delays in investigating crimes.
He also said a lot of officers have been hurt while trying to keep the peace at the protests. Critics of the police response have pointed out that officers have at times escalated the situation themselves by striking or using rubber bullets to shoot unarmed, peaceful protesters and media. LAist's own reporters are among those who have been shot, tear-gassed, and had guns pointed at them.