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Soulvine: police unions and politicians

Columnist Betty Pleasant on the relationship between police unions and politicians

Police unions and politicians are strange bedfellows; political candidates should tout their community support, not their lovey-dovey relationships with law enforcement

All these wannabe local politicians feel they can’t win an election unless they are endorsed by various law enforcement groups. That’s nonsense and they need to stop it. In every election season I get loads of press releases from candidates extolling the fact that they’ve been endorsed by cop organizations. Like that’s a reason we should elect them! Hell, that’s a reason we should reject them! Cops don’t live with us. They’re not invested in our neighborhoods and their opinion of who our elected officials should be is none of their business. And yet, election hopefuls go to great lengths to tout their law enforcement support. Why? The elected officials are supposed to represent the people of their various districts, not the cops and deputies in faraway places. After all, their representatives are over there in Simi Valley in Ventura County, where L.A. cops and deputies live.

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“Soulvine” is commentary by Betty Pleasant. The views expressed are not necessarily the opinion of the publisher.

The question then is: what does law enforcement get out of endorsing Black and brown folks who run for local elective offices? Well, it can be noted that Sen. Holly Mitchell is the only person in the state Legislature who is dealing with the fact that cops and deputies are killing Black and brown people as though they’re swatting flies. And, the End Racial Profiling Act of 2015 (ERPA) was re-introduced in Congress last month. This bill has been introduced and failed twice before at the hands of politicians who don’t see the problem with racial profiling and were probably endorsed by cops.

The people, through the NAACP and the National Action Network, are fighting against abusive policing practices. If the ERPA passes, police departments will finally be held accountable for the abusive and biased policing practices that have affected so many in our communities.

And from now on, I will identify and make a big deal over everybody who runs for office with the support and backing of law enforcement of any kind and urge you to vote against them. Candidates need to tout their community support, not their lovey-dovey relationships with law enforcement.

Another burr under my saddle…

As an active “child of the rebellious ’60s” I have a natural disdain for law enforcement of every kind, of every color and at every level. I try to keep my animosity in check though, to keep from going off the deep end and becoming some kind of weirdo cop hating fanatic. But the response of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to the LAPD cop killing of another unarmed homeless Black man in this city has given me a bit of a pause.

Two “veteran” Pacific Division cops — one White and one Black — killed 29-year-old Brendon Glenn in Venice the other evening where he had gone seeking shelter at the Teen Project’s Venice PAD Homeless Center. Those who knew Brendon —and there were many — said he was a kind, generous soul who constantly told people he loved them and gave them handshakes, which he called “hand hugs.” He’s dead now; courtesy of the LAPD.

Thanks to the cameras cops now have, the killing of Glenn has been recorded. We, the public, have not seen the video but Chief Beck has seen the tape and is forthright enough to say that he is troubled by what he saw and questions whether Glenn’s killing was justified! After viewing the tape, Beck said, “Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, and I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances at this point.” Mercy!

This is the first time in my long life that an American police chief had not rushed to validate, mitigate, legitimize, exculpate, rationalize or justify the killing of any citizen by any of his law enforcement agents. I appreciate Beck’s honesty in that regard, which should improve citizens’ level of trust and respect for cops. Under “honest Beck” (and the videotapes), cops could no longer kill unarmed Black and brown and homeless and mentally ill people and say they did it because “I feared for my life” or “I thought he was reaching for a gun,” etc.

But you know who is giving Beck a hard time about his candor? The Los Angeles Police Protective League. But that’s its job. It is the LAPD’s union and it is being supported by dues-paying cops to have their backs. So of course Craig Lally, the league president, would call Beck’s comments “completely irresponsible” and not based on facts. The League is expected to rush to the side of cops and perpetrate the illusion that all cops are good, everything they do is right and they all know what they’re doing and how to do it. Lally can just shut up because we Black and brown people know it’s a lie. Remember back in the day when the Los Angeles Police Protective League fought like vicious police dogs to keep Bernard Parks from becoming our one and only Black LAPD chief? I do. It was nasty and I wrote about it.

Betty Pleasant is a contributing writer and columnist for the Compton Herald. She was formerly a reporter at the Los Angeles Sentinel and a columnist at the Los Angeles Wave.

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