A city that never stops fighting for justice

By Mayor Eric Garcetti

Contributing Columnist

Breonna Taylor deserved better. So did Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. So did George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and too many more taken by the plague of systemic racism.

The recent wave of peaceful, powerful protests rekindled hope for a righteous movement for change –– for greater equity, justice and fairness –– in our policies and programs, our society and communities, and our hearts.

Los Angeles and other cities were stepping forward to reform the way we approach policing, empower Black businesses and workers, and reinvest in communities of color. So many of us were drawing inspiration from the demonstrators on our streets, taking their energy and working to translate it into tangible, necessary, overdue updates to our laws.

But then, we get the news of the insufficient indictment in the Breonna Taylor case, and we can feel deflated. We’re disappointed, saddened, and angry.

We’re reminded that we have to keep saying “Black Lives Matter.” We’re left with the searing knowledge that Black parents across America continue to live in fear that their daughter or son could be next.

This is not justice. This cannot stand. And here in our city, we refuse to take this news quietly. We can’t answer with inaction. We have to ask ourselves: why does this keep happening? And what can we do to be sure it never happens again?

That begins with our work to make racial equity more than a temporary trend, but a permanent part of our approach to governance. It starts with examining our policies and determining how we can live up to our ideals of belonging and fairness.

We have made a lot of progress. We’ve become a model of 21st-century policing. We’ve enacted historic reforms that cut fatal shootings in half; taken bold steps to hold officers accountable; implemented across-the-board training in implicit bias; and advanced transformative measures to deepen trust between communities and the officers who serve them.

We haven’t stopped there. The carotid hold has long been banned by the Los Angeles Police Department. This summer, our Police Commission updated our use-of-force policy and halted use of the CalGangs database. Over the course of my time as mayor, we have expanded the service area covered by our Gang Reduction and Youth Development programs by 80% –– and that’s helped us reduce juvenile arrests, decrease gang-related crime, and place the burden for youth outreach, prevention, and intervention where it belongs: in the hands of community-based providers.

Knowing that this is about more than reorienting our approach to public safety, our city has moved to inject justice more directly into our budget, our vital services and every single facet of our programs. To that end, we now have our first-ever chief equity officer in Brenda Shockley. We established our brand new Civil and Human Rights Department, led by Capri Maddox. And I signed an executive directive requiring every city department to develop racial equity action plans and take steps to implement them.

There’s far more on the horizon. For those of us in positions of leadership, alongside our courageous neighbors taking to the streets, we have to keep at it.

We have to keep saying the names of those taken too soon, raising our voices for justice and peace, and doing everything possible to keep each other healthy and safe.

We’ll never be perfect, but we’ll always push forward –– and never lose sight of progress.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.

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