Pull Focus

In regard to how the CCPD needs to follow the state law AB 481, the two questions that I keep coming back to are why? And how much?

With hearings on gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, the accountability issues in the Los Angeles Police Department, it’s a challenge to take it down to the narrow focus of the Culver City Police; but that is the task. 

In a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times, author Mike Davis offered: “The real solution is …  require [police] to live in the areas they patrol, or at least within city limits. There’s no way that you’re going to have an acceptable Police or Sheriff’s Department in a city so full of class and economic contradictions as Los Angeles. That’s not a reason not to reform, but it’s a reason to be realistic about the limits of it.”

Like almost every other problem we face, it’s about housing, and choice. 

When the people who provide our city services can’t  – or choose not to – live in our city, they don’t work in their own community. This fosters a perception of ‘us and them.’ That’s not just unhealthy, it’s toxic. It’s stratification. It’s “class and economic contradictions.” 

We have lots of evidence on how the whole system of policing does not solve the problems that it is tasked with solving. Yet, people are unable to admit that these systems don’t work. The weird (but human) idea is that if the bricks don’t hold up the structure, we need more bricks. Only when the concept emerges that bricks are the wrong thing, and no amount of bricks will make it right, can we start to build with the right material. 

The California law on military equipment is getting the same kind of push-back that SB9 received. It’s a state law. Attacking local policy is not going to change state law. 

The Culver City Police have changed in the last decade. Not all of those changes have not all been beneficial. It used to be that a lack of information allowed people to think that there was virtually no crime; not true.  Now, there is so much information, there’s a feeling that we have an epidemic of crime; also not true. It’s just a manipulation of information to create a desired effect. The technical term for that is propaganda. 

At the recent community meeting held by the police, there was a surprising amount of sentiment on the part of many community members that the police should not have to answer to this city council. This is the creeping fascism ( yes, fascism; a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control) that we see all over the country. It’s a reflection of people feeling afraid. That is what the propaganda is pushing. 

Of course the police are answerable to the council. That is how the law works. People exhaling their indignation that the police are required to follow laws seem to be skipping over a crucial page. The police are here to uphold the laws, right? Laws that also apply to them.

In regard to the CCPD needing to follow AB 481, two question that keep coming back are why? And how much? The officer who ran the meeting, Captain Troy Dunlap, noted that the CCPD has tear gas. He had never known it to be in used in his twenty-plus years on the force.

So then, why? If I have something I have not used in twenty years, why do I own it? What is it costing me to store it or maintain it? I’m betting that tear gas has an expiration date, and that the CCPD has some kind of hazardous waste schedule for throwing out stuff they never use, and then replacing it with more stuff they will never use. How much does all that cost? To keep purchasing, replacing and storing things we don’t use? 

I’m wondering how much space is dedicated to storing military equipment that is never used. A stockroom? A warehouse? This problem is replicated in every police department in every city in Los Angeles County. But I’m trying to pull focus here. 

When the federal ‘1033’ program went into effect (I’m deeply suspicious of programs that have no words to identify them,) it funded a horrific way to create purchase orders for weapons manufacturers. And who is picking up the check? Federal taxpayers. Who are paying to be over-policed. It makes all police “us” and all residents “them.” While it’s good that the CCPD does not participate in this program, how much has Culver City already spent on equipment that the state designates as military ? Why are are we buying military equipment? That we are not using and then throwing out?

Why? How much? The policy of approval for use is important, but it’s only a first step towards many layers of reform that need to happen. The amount of money we spend on the police department leaves every other department in the city shortchanged. Every Other Department. Less money for Public Works, for Parks and Recreation, less for all those things that we DO use. 

There’s a formula for how many canisters of tear gas, collecting dust, equal out to the price of an exercise class for seniors or an after-school art program.  There’s an equation of how many rooms we are using to store this equipment, and the lack of housing for bus drivers and school teachers. The dozen crimes a week (you can count the Nixle alerts; a dozen is a high estimate) that we have hundreds of police officers to look after is a ratio that is nonsensical.

The last police officer to die here was killed in a car accident more than a decade ago; interestingly, he was also an enthusiastic proponent of social programs and community-based interventions.  

We are not under siege, expect by social media. We are not under attack, except by our own prejudice and paranoia.  And the council has every right to codify, restrict or deny the police the permission to have weapons that we (quoting Cpt. Dunlop, here ) never use. 

It’s not about being pro-police or anti-police. It’s about being pro-community, and anti-violence. The more we foster a culture of inclusivity and respect for law, the less we will be led toward the fears that weapons manufacturers profit from. 

Judith Martin-Straw

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. There’s a lot wrong with this hit piece, but the latest clarion call for public sector employees to live where they work really gets some extra stank by trying to cram ten pounds of anti-cop hard salami into a two ounce “I’m totally not anti-cop” wet paper bag.

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