COMPTON — Residents have begun casting ballots in the city’s all vote-by-mail municipal election, which will conclude April 20.
Safety concerns and the city’s budget deficit are the top issues facing both the current and incoming administration. With the departure of Mayor Aja Brown, candidates are campaigning on platforms to address the deficit and restore a more cohesive working relationship with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement services to the city’s nearly 100,000 residents.
“The sheriff’s department is terrorizing our community,” Brown said during a press conference last year related to the videotaped beating of Dalvin Price. Price has filed a lawsuit against both the city and the Sheriff’s Department for the incident that led to his arrest during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many residents found the comment by the mayor reckless and without merit.
“I have never feared for my safety in the 21 years I’ve lived in Compton,” said resident Robert Ray. “I don’t think the sheriff’s have anything to do with my safety.”
Newly elected county Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell has a verifiable voting record as it pertains to improving and enhancing law enforcement services on both a state and local level. Compton residents are concerned that they are not receiving the services they are paying for, under their current $22 million contract and are curious what role the Board of Supervisors play in determining service levels in cities that contract with the sheriff’s department.
“I’ve been very deliberate in my outreach to the electeds in the nine municipalities that comprise the 2nd Supervisorial District,” Mitchell said. “I’ve recently met with those cities mayors, as sort of a high-level check-in, reiterating I have an open-door policy because we have shared constituencies, to speak about a variety of issues of policing, excessive use of force, over policing, and COVID and it was an important and powerful meeting that will continue.”
When it comes to the specifics of the Sheriff’s Department contract, which is drafted by the county’s legal counsel, the Board of Supervisors role is clear.
“As supervisor, our job is to approve a master agreement for law enforcement services for contract cities once every five years, then Sheriff Alex Villanueva is delegated the authority to negotiate specific service levels, based on the city’s needs, which does not require board approval,” Mitchell said.
Law enforcement unions have yet to make a formal endorsement of any candidate in the mayor’s race, however, a former top cop in the city of Compton has weighed in and endorsed the mayoral candidacy of Mike Willie.
“The reason I’m helping Mike Willie is based on his tenacity in obtaining a dream of playing in the NFL,” former Compton City Manager Cecil Rhambo said. “[That is] something even gifted athletes never attain. I also admire his desire to give back to the community that raised him.
“Mike doesn’t need or want to use the office to enrich his personal wealth and I believe he has integrity.”
Rhambo’s roots in the community are deep. Raised in the city, Rhambo became the first sheriff’s captain when the Sheriff’s Department began serving the city after the Compton Police Department was disbanded in September 2000.
Since then, Rhambo has served both the cities of Carson and Compton as a high-level administrator.
Speaking of Willie, Rhambo said, “Mike did what most aspiring politicians don’t do, he asked for some insight from an experienced city and government administrator on what keeps going wrong and what goes well in city halls.
“Most elected officials get in office and simply ‘rule by outrage’ based on personal agendas, emotion, anger, frustration, etc., not understanding that they may know a little but not as much as the professionals they hire to actually run the city day to day,” Rhambo added. “Mike had enough humility to understand that he didn’t know what he didn’t know and simply asked. That is a great start for someone who really wants to improve his hometown.”
Willie is a homegrown Compton resident who believes it is equally important to have a cohesive working relationship with the sheriff’s department.
“As the mayor I need to demonstrate leadership and a true partnership with all our public service and emergency first responders, which includes the Sheriff’s Department,” Willie said. “For too long, they have been our contracted law enforcement agency that we haven’t truly established a relationship with. I plan to meet regularly with the captain, get to know the deputies and the myriad of community-based programs the department offers for free to our residents and do periodic ride-alongs to see what they see from their perspective.”
Willie also has the support of Compton Unified School District Chief of Police William Wu.
“Having met with Mr. Willie I can feel his energy and passion for the city of Compton,” Wu said. “I don’t believe he is self-serving and has a true vision of bringing back services, particularly a hospital, and has a concrete plan to achieve his goals.
“From the law enforcement side of the job, he wants to create a public safety committee to improve the relationship between all agencies serving Compton residents,” Wu said.
Overall, many of the candidates share the same views that working with the sheriff’s department is an important way to address the uptick in violent crime and murders and dissatisfaction with the current state of the resident’s safety.
Mayoral candidate Amy Jimenez feels a collaborative approach to restoring the relationship with the sheriff’s department is vital to moving the city forward.
“I will work to restore the relationship with the sheriff’s department by building a collaborative relationship that prioritizes the establishment of a community-based relationship to increase trust, accountability and cooperation,” Jimenez said. “Within that, I will increase the communication and sense of partnership to best address and bolster the city’s safety.”
Jimenez cites introducing programs where community members and nonprofits work closely with the sheriff’s department to form after school programs such as safety walks.
The city of Los Angeles has successfully implemented Safe Passages, which funds nonprofits to provide safe routes to schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Residents still wishing to vote are directed to return their vote by mail ballots to either the Los Angeles County Registrar and Recorder’s office, a designated ballot drop-off box, or take them to their local post office by the April 20 deadline.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.