By Darlene Donloe, Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES — There’s a new deputy chief in town and her name is Emada Tingirides.
Tingirides, 50, becomes only the second Black woman in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department to reach that rank, following Regina Scott who was promoted to deputy chief in 2018.
A cop since 1995, Tingirides comes by it honestly. Her grandmother was a Los Angeles County Probation corrections officer.
She decided to become a police officer after watching the beating of Rodney King at the hands of LAPD officers in 1991.
A black woman who is a cop, Tingirides, who grew up in South Los Angeles and Watts, clearly understands the duality of the two as it relates to the Black community. She acknowledges there’s a fine line, but she walks it proudly.
In 2011, Tingirides, who rose quickly through the ranks, was selected by Police Chief Charlie Beck to coordinate the Community Safety Partnership (CSP), which she co-founded with civil rights attorney Connie Rice.
Last month, Chief Michel Moore announced that the LAPD had created a new bureau of the CSP and that Tingirides, who he recently promoted from captain to deputy chief, was tapped to run it. Her promotion was considered an unusual jump in rank and responsibility.
Tingirides, who is married to retired Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides, is the mother of two and has a blended family of six children.
Contributing Writer Darlene Donloe recently spoke to Tingirides about her promotion, her role as a Black police officer and how her new position will help transform the way LAPD approaches policing in Black and Latino communities.
DD: Finish this sentence. If I do nothing else in my new role as deputy chief in charge of the new CSP bureau, I’m going to….
ET: Bring the community together as best I could as a police officer in order to gain a better understanding of each other and build a relationship and try to trust each other so we can make a difference in our community.
DD: What is supposed to be the endgame with CSP?
ET: It was so important to get officers to commit to staying in the same community for five years because it takes time to make change. It takes time to understand one another and build that relationship. The community could feel like the officers are invested in their community. These officers take ownership of the community and empathize with it. It’s an opportunity to learn about individual cultures.
DD: Officers adjusting their intentions and how they work with people is easy to say. How are you going to evaluate whether it’s working?
ET: We’re going to let the community evaluate that. It’s evaluated by if it’s a critical incident, is everyone willing to sit down and talk about it. Can that community member pick up a phone and ask for resources? How do you measure trust and a relationship? It’s a feeling [and] you can’t put a number on a feeling.
That’s how I gauge the effort toward wanting to build relationships.
DD: When you were growing up, did you have a relationship with officers?
ET: I didn’t. I had no relationship with law enforcement. No contact with them. I had no negative reaction with them. I had no perception of them as being good or bad. I was too young to realize what was going on.
DD: What about when you were a little older?
ET: When I was a teenager, Rodney King was the catalyst to make me look at law enforcement. That drove me. I remember turning on the television and watching the looting after the verdict. I felt shocked. At my age, that was the first time I lived through a civil unrest.
The pain and hurt I saw in the African-American community after the incident stuck with me. At the same time, knowing what was going on with gangs and what it was doing to the community also hurt me. I said, ‘This isn’t right.’ I was yearning to give back and build bridges and trust and care. I still feel the same way.
DD: You didn’t mention the beating of Rodney King.
ET: I was shocked. I could not believe that that was happening. I had an apartment with my girlfriend and I remember feeling sick to my stomach. I remember out loud saying, ‘Why are they beating him like that? I don’t understand.’ It hurt to watch. To see him get up and down was very shocking and sad. I remember saying over and over again, ‘I don’t understand.’
Then fast-forward to George Floyd. My daughter, who is 17, and my son who is 20 said, ‘You gotta see this.’ I had to watch a couple of times to wrap my head around it. I was just shocked. What happened was wrong. That was the straw that broke… but so was Rodney King, and Trayvon and…
DD: Why is today different?
ET: I’m not saying the safety program is the answer. It’s part of the solution. It’s about being proactive and building relationships. The community holds us accountable and we hold them accountable.
It’s different because we watched this man die. We watched him take his last breath. That was a call to action on so many different fronts. This is an opportunity for everybody to look within and self-evaluate and think about, where we go from here.
Everybody should be self-examining and realigning, not just the police but our court and justice system, our schools, all of it. How do we change the narrative of Black men feeling they are not valued?
DD: Pete White, executive director of LA Community Action Network, says the CSP program is going in the wrong direction. Defund LAPD and refund the community. Do you agree?
ET: I don’t. What I believe in is a reallocation of resources to help the community thrive 100%. There should be reallocation given back to the community. CSP has been in existence since 2011. There’s no new money.
We are realigning to build this new CSP bureau. It’s just a reallocation of resources. Funding needs to go into public health and stress and community engagement. The police aren’t going away. We aren’t going anywhere. Let’s at least have a relationship.
DD: Do you understand some Black people’s hatred of police?
ET: I do. I understand it, but at the same time, I wonder if they understand how far we’ve come, specifically for LAPD. I know that we went through the consent decree and were monitored because of our actions. We went through the Rampart scandal.
About 9.6% of the city is African American. You want to represent the community you serve. You want someone to look like you. We have officers who have always been in the community. We went through bias training. We have consistently tried to reimagine ourselves and understand the community with our reforms.
We still have a ways to go. We are listening. We hear. We understand the hurt and mistrust. We can’t move forward without recognizing and understanding our past. Some aren’t going to get past the pain. I understand that. I hope they do — so we can make changes. Sometimes that pain is a heavy weight to carry.
DD: Holding law enforcement accountable sounds like a fairy tale to a lot of people.
ET: It sounds like a fairy tale because they see incidents like George Floyd all over again. There is a true doubt in their minds because these things keep happening. For people who hear the word — it goes back to gaining an understanding of both sides — so when an officer-involved shooting occurs, they will understand the process and use of force policy.
DD: Let’s talk honestly about the relationship between Blacks and the police. You are both. How do you square that?
ET: I’m very proud of who I am and what I do. I am proud of it because I am someone who grew up and went back to give back to my community. I’ve been called a traitor and some very disrespectful things while wearing the uniform. I know where it comes from. I don’t take it personally.
It makes me able to relate to the community. When you graduate, you get a wish list of where you want to work. A lot of African-American officers want to work in the communities they grew up in.
DD: Let’s talk about recruiting Black people.
ET: It’s hard to recruit Black officers because the community keeps telling kids not to like us, don’t trust us, and stay away from us. How can we recruit them? It’s very difficult. Stop telling the kids to hate us. You can’t have it both ways. If you want to change the system, be part of the system.
DD: Why did you want to be a cop?
ET: I love people and I love engaging with people. I became an officer because I always felt the need to want to help someone. My mom had me at 15. I didn’t grow up with a father. I watched my mom struggle to get herself together.
She became a nurse and worked in the ER. She could have been another statistic, but she chose to get herself together. My grandmother went to USC, taught, and was in law enforcement. In my family, it’s about doing right. My job, my role is to do something better than myself, and give back to the community.
I can be a role model for young Black girls. I came from where you are. I grew up without a dad and look what I did.
DD: What response do you get when you’re in the Black and Latino community?
ET: I get honks and waves. I’ve been flipped off and high-fived. I think I’m doing OK. Sometimes it hurts. I’ve had my tires slashed on my Dodge Charger. I‘ve heard I’m cool for a cop. Why? Maybe I showed you some respect, or did I give you a head nod?
DD: We talked about what you do, let’s talk about who you are? When you’re not working, what are you doing?
ET: I love music. I just love being with my family. I’m all about my kids. I’m a football mom. I just bought a 1963 Volkswagen ragtop. I used to belong to a Bug Club. On Sundays, I drive my VW with the ragtop down.