Labor, activist and community groups declared a “state of emergency” Thursday following a series of police shootings, including two this past weekend, that they say have resulted disproportionately in the deaths of black and Latino Angelenos.
The groups — which include Community Coalition, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Brotherhood Crusade and SEIU 721 — issued an open letter urging city leaders to “act with urgency to address the disproportionate use of lethal force against black and Latino residents.”
“Time and time again, we see law enforcement exercise restraint when confronting white suspects, while not exercising the same care to avoid the loss of black life,” the groups wrote. “When confronting armed and unarmed suspects, officers should use a variety of de-escalation tactics to prevent further loss of life.”
They called on city leaders to take “comprehensive and immediate action,” including requiring “open, transparent and independent investigation” into recent police shootings, make Police Commission meetings more accessible to the public, and to stop arresting peaceful protesters.
A poll conducted by Community Coalition, one of the signers of the letter, found that the majority of respondents say deadly force should be avoided even when a suspect is armed, and that their confidence in the police department has fallen over the last three years, according to the letter.
The signers of the letter also pointed to a Guardian article saying that in 2015, the Los Angeles Police Department “killed more people than any other law enforcement agency in the country,” and that this year 18 people have died “at the hands of law enforcement in Los Angeles.”
The other letter signers include Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE), Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Dignity and Power Now, Children’s Defense Fund California, Advancement Project California and SEIU 2015.
The open letter was issued after police Chief Charlie Beck released video footage on Tuesday that shows 18-year-old Carnell Snell, Jr., carrying a gun prior to being fatally shot by officers on Saturday. The video failed to quell angry protests that spilled over to the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting on Tuesday, though Beck said the video was aimed not at the activists who he feels have already made up their minds, but at the general public.
Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Beck’s efforts this week, urging the public to “dial down on the emotion piece, feel this, but find a place to make connections.”
Garcetti said that calling officers “killers” was “no less damaging than somebody coming up and deciding who you are based on the color of your skin.”
Garcetti’s comments were made in response to a question on whether he agreed with a statement by the Los Angeles Police Protective League — the union representing rank-and-file officers — that with the release of the video of Snell, their members now “eagerly await those who fostered false information about this incident to take it back and turn their outrage toward seeking answers from the suspect’s friends and family as to where the suspect acquired the gun and where the suspect learned that it was OK to point a loaded gun at police officers.”
Police accounts so far do not say that Snell pointed his gun at officers, but turned toward them with the weapon in his hand.
Garcetti said that “whenever there is somebody whose life is lost on the streets of Los Angeles, that’s a tragedy,” no matter what their circumstances were.
He also said the encounters happened in a climate where “systemic racism in our society … exists on the corner, exists in government.”
“Confronting racism is not just the obligation of the police department or the police force,” Garcetti said.
The victim in a second police shooting over the weekend was identified today as 16-year-old Daniel Enriquez Perez. Beck said on Monday that Perez had pointed what appeared to be a gun at police officers. The gun turned out to be a replica which “had the orange tip colored by black paint or a black felt pen,” he said.
Beck also said body-worn camera footage “clearly supports the officers’ prior statements and versions of this incident, and it clearly refutes any reports that this individual … was shot while he was laying on the ground.”
Police officials have so far declined to release the body camera footage from the Perez shooting.
–City News Service
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