By Sue Favor
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore was praised for his “transparency” following a meeting with community leaders last week to address concerns about the rising tide of homicides in the city over the past year and other issues.
Representatives from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, the Los Angeles Urban League, Community Build and Project Islamic Hope requested a session with Moore to discuss the recent killing of a 14-year-old girl at the hands of police.
“The takeaway is that he is very committed to looking at systemic issues … and that he is using this opportunity to look at what could have potentially been done differently,” said Robert Saucedo, CEO of Community Build, following the meeting.
Valentina Orellana-Peralta was in the dressing room of a North Hollywood clothing store with her mother Dec. 23, when LAPD officers came in looking for a suspect who was assaulting a woman. Police fired at the man and a bullet pierced the dressing room wall, killing the girl.
Sausedo said his organization received numerous calls from residents concerned about the tactics of police, who had been summoned to suppress the situation in the store. Saucedo said the group told Moore that they would like to see officers have “new tools to deploy so that the first thing you grab is not your gun.”
“The chief was clear that he is using this opportunity to look at what could have been done differently,” Sausedo said.
Moore said the investigation is being handled by the state attorney general’s office, and LAPD’s goal is to understand how the incident escalated to the point that it did.
“I want to stress that outcomes will be known and decisions will be made with regard to the policies, procedures and actions associated with mass violence [in LAPD],” Moore told The Wave following the meeting.
Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, said that his organization has been deeply troubled by the rise in homicides across the city, which were the highest in 2021 than they have been in over a decade. The killings — three of which were children in December — numbered almost 400 for the year.
Ali said the group that met with Moore appreciated his authenticity and pledge to ensure that the investigation into the Orellana-Peralta slaying would be fair and transparent. The chief also pledged more non-police resources to stem the tide of violence, according to Ali.
“That was a relief to hear,” Ali said. “Our coalition believes there can’t be more officers in troubled areas; there has to be a holistic approach. Gang interventionists and emergency response teams can be deployed into situations where law enforcement isn’t needed.”
Sausedo said the situation that led to the accidental killing of the teen, as well as the city’s elevated crime rate, is indicative of larger problems at work.
“The issue is bigger than LAPD — the issue is what’s going on in our society, and what’s going on in our society with mental health and violence, and people acting poorly in our community,” Sausedo said. “We’ve got to look at the whole picture.”
Moore agreed, pointing to numerous shootings across the city late last year.
“These are not isolated incidents,” he said. “They’re a result of complex issues, including the failure of the mental health system and treatment to lack of community resources, to chronic offenders.”
Moore said the meeting with South L.A. leaders is just one in a continuing series in an effort to foster transparency.
Sausedo said the organizations coming together to form a coalition is an opportunity for unification, and dissolution of any past racial tension.
“This is a good time for Black and brown to come together in a constructive way that calls for change and is productive,” he said. “We all want a workable police department, and to keep citizens engaged.”
Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles.