Following weeks of protests, a wave of petitioners are calling on La Cañada Flintridge to end its contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The city’s Public Safety Commission was rushed with emails, which were read on Monday during a lengthy public comment portion. Many community members expressed support for an online petition started by La Cañada BLM, a group that has organized several protests in recent weeks.
The commission received about 20 emails in support of the petition.
The petition, which had roughly 280 names to its 1,000-signature goal by the time of the meeting, demands that the city end its contract with the LASD and reinvest the funding toward “equitable alternatives.”
According to budget estimates presented at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, LCF budgeted about $2.641 million in 2019-20 to a contract with the Sheriff’s Department, and is requesting about $2.788 million for a renewed contract in 2020-21.
Community members supporting the petition authored by La Cañada BLM, which is not officially affiliated with the larger Black Lives Matter organization, echoed its demands on Monday and again on Tuesday at the City Council meeting. Though most of the comments were aimed at the LASD in general, a few also shared personal experiences with local deputies.
For instance, LCF resident Kathleen Lust said that other black people and people of color have been targeted by deputies.
“I have Black & [people of color] friends and family members that have been pulled over in LC by the Sheriff’s Department for doing nothing but driving,” she said in her email to commissioners. “I have seen students of color treated different than their white counterparts for the same behaviors … I will not rest until these thugs with badges are removed from my community. With the presence of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in our city, no one is safe.”
“As a longtime resident of this town I find it deplorable to remember the racially motivated situations I was in because of my skin tone and the police,” said Nika Mabson in her emailed comment. “One time my boyfriend was pulled over for driving through the town at night. There was no real reason given as to why he was pulled over. I suspect it may have been because he wasn’t white.”
PETITION REFERENCES RECENT LASD INVESTIGATIONS
The petition, which was read publicly during the meeting, refers to several accusations that have been made against the Sheriff’s Department, such as a 2019 FBI investigation that resulted in 18 former or current deputies being charged with civil rights violations. Federal officials said that deputies unjustly beat inmates and visitors at jail facilities and later attempted to obstruct the investigation.
The petition gives no claims of similar behavior against the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, which services LCF, though it argues that Capt. Todd Deeds has not recognized racial bias within the greater LASD.
Deeds, who delivered the monthly crime report at the meeting, briefly defended the department during the commission meeting.
“I know that there’s a lot of negative criticism about our department, but I have to say, I’m extremely proud of the continued professionalism and integrity shown by our personnel,” he said.
COMMISSION FORMS SUBCOMMITTEE
After the public comment period, chairwoman Maureen Siegel-Sprowles explained that the commission could not immediately address the issues the petitioners and commentators had raised because they were not an agenda item, though they could become one in the future.
However, she could — and did — form a two-person subcommittee, appointing herself and Commissioner Marilyn Smith as its members.
Siegel-Sprowles added in an email that the subcommittee would first meet with city staff to determine what is the scope of authority that the city has in relation to its contract with the LASD. She also emphasized that the Public Safety Commission itself is simply an advisory group to the City Council, responsible for evaluating the public safety needs of the community and making recommendations to the council.
Smith, who was also appointed on Monday by her peers to become the commission’s next chair from July 2020 to June 2021, joined other commissioners in thanking the community members for raising their concerns.
“I’d like to thank every member of the public who has attended tonight,” she said. “I hope this continues.”
Commissioner Jeff Olson, who was appointed vice chair for the next year, echoed her statements, noting that roughly two dozen people were at the meeting.
“There’s a lot of people voicing an opinion who need to be heard,” he said.
Those voices included that of Teddy Park, a 2014 La Cañada High School graduate. In his letter to the commission, he said he had seen students of color treated unfairly by deputies. He suggested reinvesting the money currently allocated to the LASD toward educational and job programs, as well as mental health resources.
“I demand that the Public Safety Commission take action to meet these demands,” he said in his letter. “LASD is not a welcome or helpful part of our community, and students deserve a learning environment without risk of potentially life-changing or life-threatening repercussions over silly infractions.”