Vice Mayor Daniel Lee on policing


This is a transcript of Daniel Lee’s City Council speech on January 25:

Here is a video of the speech LINK

I’d like to talk about the notion of public safety. As a Black man in the US, in California, in Culver City, I have to ask for whom? Because when people say things are great in Culver City, things are great in my neighborhood, I have to say “for whom?” is that for all of your neighbors? Your affluent neighbors? or does that also include your Black neighbors of all income levels? Your immigrant neighbors from places all over the world? Your Mexican-American or Central/South American neighbors? If I asked this question in a manner that was not rhetorical, it would be difficult to answer because when most people say “we have great public safety in Culver City”, they are talking about their own personal experience. Which is completely fine. What is not fine is to discount the personal experiences of other people. We have heard on numerous occasions from youth of color that they have felt harassed inside and outside of school by our Culver City PD. I myself in CC, when I used to drive a car, was pulled over for supposedly having tail light out. The only problem was that I had replaced all the fuses and lights in my car the day before myself and I consulted with my roommate to make sure they worked. I myself in CC only 6 years ago was stopped and frisked on the way home from the train station in Culver City. My immediate question was, “Officer, am I being detained? Why are you pulling me over? I’m walking home.” I didn’t get a response. I got a lot of laughter. This was in Culver City. I, myself, in Culver City, for all of those people who think that this is a national issue being improperly reflected on our city, witnessed …one of our CCPD officers drive their SUV up onto the sidewalk on Washington Blvd right by Sony to stop a young kid of color from riding a scooter on the sidewalk. That was a disproportionate response. I want to start with these instances just to push back against the narrative this our police are somehow different. We have a very high quality police force. We do. But all police forces within the US are racist and biased. We live in a white supremacist society. I know that some people are uncomfortable hearing that, but it is the truth. It is the same truth that was evident to me when I had a debate in high school about the cause of the Civil War. Some people said it was slavery other people said it was economics. Well, what economic system enabled the US to prosper in its earliest days? Slavery. It is a simple question to answer. It should not be up for debate. We should not debate the lived experiences of people– not adults, not council members and especially not our youth of color. This is something they have experienced. We may not have experienced it but we are not everyone. I am not everyone. 

On another note, a lot of people talk about some of the suggestions in Solidarity Consulting in terms of the advice of not enforcing certain misdemeanors.. We as a council, because of COVID, have instructed the city not to enforc of parking. Police have discretion. If you ride the METRO in LA County, you have likely seen this discretion at work… I’ve it very often..I’ve seen youth of color pulled over by Sheriff’s officers on the train for not paying their fare. I’ve seen adult white men do the same thing without consequences. We live in a racist society. It does not mean we are individually responsible for racism or that our actions are individually the cause of racism. It is a fact. If you are uncomfortable with facts, I don’t know what to tell you. 

…I don’t want to take too much time and I don’t want to get too emotional, but I do want to say a few things about the recommendations of Solidarity Consulting and Saul Sarabia. One, while I agree with the recommendations, I don’t believe they go far enough. They mirror some recommendations I made through my email list last year prior to the pubic safety review even starting. They are reasoned and minute recommendations. They do not include defunding the police as they have been characterized by some of the speakers tonight. The only way that positions would actually be lost… is through attrition. We value our employees here in Culver City across the board, we value our police department, we value our fire department, but we also value the health and safety of our residents– all of our residents–not just the white ones. We need to reflect that in policy. 

A number of speakers have mentioned that about 8% of all of our calls involve crime theft or violence. One of the things I constantly hear from police officers themselves is that we are overburdened and overtaxed with duties that we are not trained to fulfill. Yet, when there is the policy recommendation to transfer those duties to someone else, people are up in arms. Even when they are policy recommendations that guarantee that these police officer’ jobs would still exist, they resist! I think there is something else at work. I don’t want to get into that. But if you are not trained for a job and someone else is better suited and we’re offering an avenue for someone else to take over that position, you should jump at someone being able to do that. Which brings me to CAHOOTS and the mobile crisis intervention. 

And I know that staff will mis-remember this –on purpose or not–but during our budget cycle last year, not only did we approve $100,000 to be used for mobile crisis intervention, we approved that specifically to be used with SSG.That decision has already been made. If staff wants to push back and say that it hasn’t. then I would ask them why I personally attended numerous meetings with the assistant city manager, police chief, the fire chief, and other city management staff with SSG trying to construct the confines of that pilot program. That decision has already been made. The staff report presents it as if it has not been. (sigh) 

As I said before, these changes are not sweeping, they are reasonable. If there is a mental health crisis that someone is experiencing, a mental professional should handle that. If there is a substance abuse issue, mental health or substance abuse social worker is most equipped to handle that. We know from the 30-years of experience of CAHOOTS that that can happen without significant negative interactions. In fact, in their program there have been no fatalities. I know personally as a social worker I have friends and colleagues across LOs Angeles County who do this every day. 

They respond to emergencies for mental health and substance abuse on a daily basis. And so far, they have survived. The other issue which I am glad I did not hear about tonight but I want to bring up tonight are issues of lawsuits for decreasing police officers. It is a non starter. .I have consulted with residents and the UCLA school of law and cities are just not losing their liability insurance as a result of reducing–some cities have been scared out of reducing by the threats. By and large across the country, the most damaging lawsuits are from mass transit fatalities to some degree and from the killing of unarmed individuals by Police officers. which brings me to my bigger point, while I do agree with the recommendations of Solidarity consulting, I believe there is an untoward focus on ATI. The entire notion of ATI pathologizes a group of people as offenders. What we need to focus on and one of the reasons I agree with Solidarity consulting is alternatives to police interactions. Because White supremacy not an issue that exists within our police departments across the country, it’s an issue that exists in all institutions in the US with in our city council, within our city staff, our state government, and federal gov’t. In order to stop people of color in particular from suffering negative effects of interactions with police and potential bias, we need focus on decreasing those interactions and not pathologize those people..The simple suggestion of deploying mental health professional instead of police officer should not be remotely controversial. It’s something I’ve done myself in my MSW study. It’s something others in my program do on a regular basis.. It’s basic. The issue of deploying non-sworn people, non-officers for traffic violations, that can be more complex. I’m willing to engage that nuance. We live in LA County. We live in a place where, if you watch the news, you might see a car chase…

I have clearly stated that I am in favor of Solidarity Consulting’s recommendations though I don’t think they go far enough and I think there are further conversations that we can have. But the other things that came up in our discussions at least four or five meetings both with representatives from CAHOOTS and from SSG, one of the big things that was not brought up even though I explicitly requested it of staff multiple times, is a comparison of the price it would take to deploy a crisis intervention team and the cost to deploy MET teams and the others. The first thing I did in 2018, when I was elected, was to meet with the Police and Fire Chiefs. Because I heard in prior meetings and on numerous occasions that 40% of the calls were re: mental health or mental health related. The numbers I have seen in the reports that I have gotten since then and that have been part of the public safety review have been 4-10%. How can those numbers be so divergent? How the chiefs who have worked in the city for decades and are respected for the skill they have at their job could be so wrong. I doubt they are. Lastly, ..there is a lot of talk and there is a lot in this staff report re: police use of force. One of the other things that I requested amongst a litany of things that I requested that was not in this report but around police interactions generally This was something I requested, police interactions–more substantively. Unnecessary interactions people being treated disrespectfully, those escalate and result in violence. We should focus on minimizing those interactions. De-escalation rather than escalation by using mental health professionals. Nothing that has been presented tonight is radical. These are very basic suggestions that would help our police do their jobs better. I think we should move forward with the suggestions of Solidarity Consulting, I was disappointed in the staff presentations last year and today. We asked for more and so did our residents.”