Geoff Smith, 27, lives in West Los Angeles and doesn’t feel safe with the police around.
“We all ‘fit the description,’” said Smith in describing how believes police officers always view African American males as suspects, not only in Los Angeles, but around the country.
“I’m in the zone,” he lamented.
The July 5 and 6 shooting of African-American males by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, which are still under investigation, generated large anti-police protests, and culminated with the killing of five Dallas Police officers on July 7 by a lone gunman angered by those incidents.
The perception of police, not as agents of help but oppressors, was exacerbated on Tuesday, July 12, as the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that one of the department’s officers acted within department policy when he shot Redel Jones, a 30-year-old black woman in the aftermath of a pharmacy robbery in August 2015 in the Crenshaw district.
Hundreds of people gathered for hours outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters Tuesday waiting for the Commission to make it’s rulings.
When it was announced, the decision quickly sparked shouts of protest from the audience.
“It is an atrocity. The whole system is guilty,” said Melina Abdullah of the group Black Lives Matter. Group members tried to take their protest into City Hall, with an intent to meet with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. They were not allowed inside the building, and instead conducted a rally in front of it.
The chant of “Fire Chief (Charlie) Beck,” was head once and again while several speakers addressed the crowd.
“We’re here to tell the Mayor to fire Chief Beck because he’s the most murderous police chief in the country,” Abdullah said.
Garcetti and Beck were in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, July 13, to meet with President Barack Obama and officials from across the country to discuss efforts to build bridges between communities and law enforcement agencies following this latest rash of violence.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in addition to law enforcement officials, the meeting would include “activists, civil rights leaders, and local political leaders from across the country.”
He said the meeting will be an effort “to try to further the dialogue and the identification of specific solutions to repairing the bonds of trust that have frayed in so many communities between law enforcement officials and the citizens that they’re sworn to serve and protect.”
The Shooting of Redel Jones
The Commission, after meeting in closed session for more than an hour, announced that it while found fault with some of the tactics used by officers, it concluded that the Aug. 12, 2015 shooting of Jones by Officer Brett Ramirez did not violate LAPD policy.
Ramirez has been with the department for about four years.
Jones was shot in the 4100 block of Marlton Avenue in South Los Angeles, after police responded to a call of a pharmacy robbery in the 3700 block of Santa Rosalia Drive. About $80 was stolen.
Police said officers saw a woman matching the description of the suspect in an alley west of Marlton Avenue, and the shooting occurred when officers tried to detain her. Police said the woman was armed with a knife, and that a knife was recovered at the scene.
According to Beck’s report to the Police Commission, officers were chasing Jones in the alley when they saw her pull out a large knife. The officers ordered Jones to drop the knife, but she continued to run, according to the report.
An officer deployed a Taser during the chase, but it apparently did not make contact with Jones, according to the report. During the chase, Jones suddenly stopped and turned toward the officers, the report said.
According to the report, Jones “raised her knife to head level and pointed the blade in (an officer’s) direction. Jones then took approximately three to four lunging steps and charged in his direction.”
Beck concluded in the report that “based on the totality of the circumstances,” a trained officer “would reasonably believe that Jones’ actions while armed with a knife presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury and therefore, the use of lethal force would be objectively reasonable.”
According to an internal report obtained by the Los Angeles Times, money and a robbery demand note were found in Jones’ clothing.
A woman named Courtyana Franklin told the paper, however, that she witnessed the shooting in the side-view mirror of her car, and insisted Jones was running away from officers when she was shot, not advancing on them.
Jones’ husband, Marcus Vaughn, who attended Tuesday’s commission meeting, told the panel in an emotional statement, “You all stole her from me.”
For protesters, this was another in a series of officer involved shootings of African American people in questionable circumstances.
“This is not a black issue. This is a human issue. Lives are being lost and we have to demand change,” said Jared Jones, 22, who lives in South Central Los Angeles and, like Smith, doesn’t feel safe with police around.
“Whenever there are cops around, everything has to be in plain sight to avoid problems,” Jones said, before adding a call to fire Chief Beck.
“He can’t keep allowing for these murders to happen. We need someone from outside to hold them accountable,” he said of the LAPD.
For Smith, the change should be a “community run police,”where people from the community would be in charge of overseeing hiring and training of officers.
His theory is that most police officers come from areas with different views of minorities and thus do not understand the communities they patrol.
“Why aren’t our own people policing our communities,” he questioned.
Tensions between police and black community
Tensions between police and the black community have been running high following two fatal shootings by police in the past week — of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
The tensions escalated into the sniper shootings during a protest in Dallas, killing five police officers.
Police Commission President Matt Johnson called for a “meaningful discussions” with the community.
“Whether we’re talking about Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas or right here in Los Angeles, the actions of a few have caused so much pain and anger in communities across America,” Johnson said. “It is my hope that meaningful dialogue can occur with all of our communities so we can continue to improve the relationship between our police officers and our residents.”