The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to authorize Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council President Nury Martinez to bring the city into a cooperative to manage safety and security services for the 2028 Olympics.
The City Council’s approval authorized Garcetti and Martinez to enter into a memorandum of understanding to join the already created California Olympic and Paralympic Public Safety Command. The cooperative would consist of the city, the Los Angeles Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2028 and the California Office of Emergency Services.
The cooperative will help coordinate law enforcement resources during the games on the federal, state and city level. Los Angeles would have one co-chairperson on the cooperative, which will be either the Los Angeles Police Department chief, the Los Angeles Fire Department chief or someone else appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council.
It will also determine which resources are needed to protect Olympic venues and maintain police services throughout the city during the Games.
Federal authorities will be involved in the command a couple of years before 2028, when the event is designated a National Special Security Event, according to John Wickham, division head of the city legislative analyst.
Critics argue that the cooperative will expand policing in Los Angeles and that the 2028 Olympics in general will have negative impacts on policing, homeless encampments and communities of color.
Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who was one of two council members to vote no, raised questions about designating the event as a National Special Security Event and wondered how the city would protect its immigrant residents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She also asked if the executive committee’s Los Angeles representatives would have authority to make decisions on behalf of the city or would have to get approval from the mayor or City Council.
Raman said she wanted these questions answered before the City Council enters into the agreement, and said she submitted her questions to the City Attorney’s Office but did not yet get a response.
Councilman Mike Bonin also voted no.
“I would feel much more comfortable with the (agreement) if we had built into it some of the safeguards that we’re talking about, that we enter into this (agreement) saying to our partners at the state and federal level, `this is our city and there are certain things that we hold dear,”’ he said.
According to Wickham, Los Angeles will not give away any authority to another entity once it joins the cooperative. “It is simply allowing the city to join in conversations with the state and LA28 in planning for the Olympics,” he said.
Wickham told council members that the cooperative “is not giving away any of the city’s ability to set its own path on public safety in the future.”
Wickham said he didn’t think the city would have a lot of power to tell the federal government how to “run its business” in Los Angeles during the games, but said the city should check with the Los Angeles city attorney.
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said he was an adolescent during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and during that time he was told by his parents not to go outside after 6 p.m. because of the police.
“The Olympics open up a door for law enforcement to pursue things that might not be supported in a regular setting and I just want to register and agree with my colleagues that, since we have that history, we need to be out front about that,” he said.
“There’s no reason why we need to send any signal as a city that we need Border Patrol in Los Angeles during a time when we’re supposed to be welcoming the world … and we need to assert that on the front end rather than waiting til they get here and say `well no we didn’t want that.’ I think we need to be more forceful and up front about our vision for public safety.”
Harris-Dawson voted yes to enter the city into the agreement, saying “when the time is right, and we have confidence in the folks that are representing the city at these tables, when the time is right we need to take a bold and assertive stance around our public safety vision for the Olympics in our city.”
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell argued that Los Angeles must join the command in order to have a seat at the table on discussions about safety and security in Los Angeles during the games.
“If we did not insert ourselves in this conversation, we would in fact have no oversight whatsoever. So this is an assertion of our oversight as it relates to safety and security of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games,” he said.
“When we unanimously agreed to host the 2028 Olympics a few years back we knew that we were taking on an enormous challenge and opportunity. We also know that we were determined to make the most of it, to have it be the safest and most successful Olympics in world history and this is part of that obligation,” O’Farrell said.
On Feb. 23, the Ad Hoc Committee on the 2028 Olympics and Paralympic Games voted to recommend that the City Council authorize Garcetti and Martinez to bring the city into the cooperative. The motion passed through the committee with five yes votes and two members absent.
The organization NOlympics L.A. contends that the 2028 Olympics will accelerate displacement and the militarization of police in Los Angeles at a time when many Angelenos and officials are looking at ways to decrease policing and re-imagine public safety.
Activists cite a June 2020 neighborhood council meeting at which an LAPD officer said the department needs a 30% expansion to prepare for the Olympics.