The City Council Wednesday unanimously confirmed East Los Angeles community activist and public policy expert Maria “Lou” Calanche to the Police Commission, where Mayor Eric Garcetti said she will be a “vital voice for justice to the city’s leadership in 21st century policing.”
“Lou has dedicated her life and career to empowering, strengthening and lifting up L.A.’s youth, and that makes her the ideal leader to help us reimagine public safety in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said in his nomination statement.
“Lou’s presence and perspective will bring fresh thinking and innovative ideas to our Police Commission, help us deepen relationships between the (Los Angeles Police Department) and the communities it serves and keep us on-course to a safer, more just and more equitable city,” he said.
Calanche is a professor of political science at East Los Angeles Community College and the founder and executive director of Legacy LA, a youth development organization that equips at-risk youth living in Ramona Gardens with resources to help them advance their lives and improve their neighborhood, according to the mayor’s office.
Garcetti said Calanche has also been involved in the Invest in Youth campaign, where she has led a citywide effort to expand funding for youth development in Los Angeles and improve ties between the city’s young people and law enforcement.
“Every day, I work to serve this city’s future by empowering our youth, and sitting on the Police Commission is yet another way to give back to our communities and find creative ways to invest in our diverse neighborhoods,” Calanche said. “Mayor Garcetti has vested me with an incredible honor, and I intend to partner with my fellow commissioners, the leadership and rank-and-file of the LAPD, and community experts in prevention, intervention and violence reduction to continue making L.A. a model of 21st century policing.”
Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa is stepping down from the board, and Calanche will fill her seat.
“From the minute she joined our Police Commission, Sandra has helped drive an urgent conversation about what it means to deliver true fairness and equal treatment to Angelenos and how to make our vision for just policing a reality for all of us, regardless of zip code,” Garcetti said. “Sandra always stood and fought on the right side of history on the commission. We will miss her determination and leadership, and we wish her only strength as she moves on to her next chapter.”
The Police Commission has undertaken several policy reforms since the widespread civil unrest that took place in late May and early June in Los Angeles following the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
Garcetti said he and the City Council are working to identify new investments for community and youth development programs in communities of color, including $150 million in cuts to the police budget. The council has also enacted measures to explore how to divert non-violent 911 calls away from officers and toward social service providers.
Calanche was raised in Boyle Heights and said she has always strived to help the youth of Los Angeles.
Sspeaking at the City Council meeting, Calanche said the Police Commission must move forward on its “do no harm” initiatives and address safety of neighborhoods by making policing a community service.
“I want to see interactions between young people and police as a positive interaction,” Calanche told the council. “Growing up, I didn’t have that experience … my brothers kept getting stopped by police, you know, just because they lived in the Ramona Gardens community, and I think that’s a really sad way to grow up.”
Calanche also said she wants to continue to work on police accountability.
“Police reform cannot be done on its own without investing in young people,” she said. “When we talk about public safety, it’s a bigger issue than just policing.”
Calanche’s term will run through June 30, 2022.
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