“I welcome this opportunity to continue to fight for racial equity and equal opportunity, and against systemic racism and injustice.”
Those are the words of my deputy mayor for economic opportunity, and the first chief equity officer in Los Angeles’ history, Brenda Shockley.
Recent powerful, peaceful, passionate protests underscore that we are at an inflection point — and I am proud of the thousands of Angelenos who filled our streets to demand racial justice. This is a moment to turn our anger into action and translate our righteous rage into substantive steps to end the scourge of structural racism.
For more than two decades, Shockley served as president of Community Build, which she helped found in 1992 to revitalize South L.A. in response to the civil unrest. It’s because of her deep experience, profound commitment to empowering underserved communities, and all that she’s achieved since joining my team in 2016 that I appointed her as chief equity officer. In this role, Shockley will help us deliver on the promise of racial justice by putting equity front and center in our policies and programs.
Meeting that mission demands that we work every day to root out patterns of prejudice — not just in word, but in deed. We have to start at the heart of political power and public service in our city — our local government — and the departments that deliver vital services to Angelenos every single day. That’s why action is going to begin at City Hall.
Last month, I signed an executive directive on racial equity calling on every general manager and department head to ensure the starting line is the same for everyone — and that people of color, women, people with disabilities, and veterans are met with equal opportunity.
My executive directive asks all city departments to begin planning for the repeal of Proposition 209, so we’re ready to bring back affirmative action in our recruitment, hiring, training and personnel policies should California voters decide to discard this measure into the dustbin of history this November.
Alongside this, we’ll undertake a rigorous study of any disparity in hiring, promotion and contracting, which is required by federal law prior to implementing affirmative action. Even if California voters repeal Proposition 209, we must also make changes in our city charter. Currently, the charter places a limit on the kinds of preferences that may be given in awarding contracts, so I am calling for a charter amendment on a future ballot to allow the city to implement affirmative action if Proposition 209 is repealed.
If this change comes to fruition, we will give preference to minority-owned businesses and other under-represented groups in city contracts, and extend the reach of opportunity to all of our communities. But before we get to November, we are going to double down to promote equity within our own government.
As part of my executive directive, every general manager and department head will name a racial equity officer — the person tasked with developing and overseeing the department’s racial equity plan. These plans will spell out the department’s existing policies around recruitment, hiring, training, retention, promotions and contracting — and describe efforts to attract, promote and hire from a robust pool of qualified candidates.
To promote diversity, departments and offices will be encouraged to consider a wide range of factors in hiring — like the adversities that a candidate has overcome or their first-generation graduate status. And to ensure these racial equity plans do more than sit on a shelf, they will include a list of clear metrics as well as a method for developing reliable data to track progress.
A newly formed Racial Equity Task Force — made up of the department’s racial equity officers and representatives from my office — will help keep these strategies active and continue to develop new goals and programs. And because we are looking to create a culture of inclusivity across the board in our city government, every employee will participate in annual mandatory training on implicit bias.
This is one step on a long road toward correcting the inequities baked into our systems of law enforcement, our policies, and our communities. As Brenda Shockley put it, change “must start at City Hall if Los Angeles is to become a model of racial fairness.”
Working together, I know we will build a more just and equitable city.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.