Earlier this year, Inglewood was named an All-American City. While some may scoff at the controversy-plagued city winning such a distinction, I fully embrace it. Like America, the City of Inglewood is at a critical juncture in its history.
In particular, the city of over 120,000 residents is currently confronted with the question about what type of police department it will have from this point forward.
After the most recent rash of police shootings, which resulted in 5 unarmed individuals losing their lives in the last year, it has become resoundingly clear that Inglewood needs a significant change in police policies and practices. The situation has been further complicated by the Inglewood City Council's refusal to release findings from an Office of Independent Review (OIR) report concerning its police department – findings that probably aren’t favorable.
However, in every significant political moment, there needs to be one or more decision-makers who act in a courageous and just manner to create the change that is needed. We see this currently with President Obama’s principled stand for health care reform in the face of death threats and deceit. Inglewood also needs a courageous and just decision-maker to arise. Its residents demand and deserve someone who will not back down to reactionary forces within law enforcement, who prioritize protecting abusive police officers over community safety, trust, and integrity.
Inglewood’s current group of political leaders is an intelligent and highly skilled group. However, the question remains if Mayor Roosevelt Dorn and Councilmembers Danny Tabor, Judy Dunlap, Eloy Morales, and Ralph Franklin have the courage to do what is right, which would be the following:
1. Increase the powers and responsibilities of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission (CPOC)
Created in 2004 to provide civilian oversight, this commission was stripped of any significant power by the City Council and Police union. The Commission doesn’t even have the right to review cases of abuse or misconduct. The CPOC must have the power to review cases, conduct independent investigations, and make disciplinary recommendations to truly represent the voice of Inglewood citizens.
2. Engage a large number of Inglewood residents around what they want from their police department
One of the obvious next steps for the City of Inglewood is to engage its own residents about their thoughts and solutions to the issues facing their police department. My organization, the Families for Community Safety Campaign, recently organized volunteers to collect over 200 surveys from Inglewood residents on the subject. Our findings were profound but not surprising. For instance, the majority of residents surveyed do not think that Inglewood Police officers are held accountable for abusive behavior. This information is important and should be prioritized by Inglewood’s leadership when crafting solutions. Furthermore, frequent surveying of residents should be an often-used tactic by the Inglewood City Council. If a volunteer group can do it, the City of Inglewood should be able to do so.
3. Conduct a comprehensive review of the Inglewood Police Department in order to discover and change any practices or policies that encourage abusive policing (i.e. cleaning house)
The Inglewood Police Department has had 3 Chiefs in 10 years. Despite these frequent changes, it is clear that police abuse and misconduct continue to be tolerated, as evidenced by the actions -- and in some cases, inaction -- of both high-ranking and rank-and-file officers. The City Council, through Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, must be creative and effective in establishing a humane and community-centered police department. This must be done by improving/changing the department's policies and procedures. Central to this effort must be thorough and consistent mandatory training for officers and management.
4. Make a public stand against the Police Bill of Rights and the District Attorney's consistent refusal to prosecute police officers who commit murder and/or misconduct
We have constantly heard about how the California Police Bill of Rights and the District Attorney's Office create the real barriers to ending police brutality. While it is true that police officers receive too much protection from state law and the DA’s office, the City of Inglewood can do a lot of good by instituting policy reforms and making a public stand against the Police Bill of Rights and the District Attorney.
In response to recent media coverage of the Inglewood City Council’s handling of the OIR report, its members are scrambling to “save face” and finally do something. However, unless the Mayor and City Council provide real leadership on this issue and act with courage, any proposed solutions will fail to make change. Given the current idea of creating a task force – which would have no real power either – Inglewood’s political leaders continue to fail at the expense of the residents of their All-American City.