City News Service

Entertainment Attorney Elected President of Los Angeles Police Commission

Entertainment attorney Matthew Johnson, the newest member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, was elected Tuesday to serve as its president.

In a speech at the start of Tuesday's board meeting, Johnson vowed to restore trust between the public and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Johnson, who is black, said the LAPD is not immune to the distrust aimed at law enforcement agencies around the country stemming from questionable police shootings involving minorities and excessive force by officers.

"We do not live in a bubble," Johnson said. "We can't pretend that what happens in other cities does not have an impact on how our citizens feel, or fail to recognize that we have suffered our own conflicts arising out of police actions.

"Each of these incidents builds on the others, and feeds a narrative of 'us' vs. 'them,'" he said. "In these moments, we need to take extra care to ensure that the bonds of trust between the police and our diverse communities are secure and strengthened."

Steps should be taken "on an institutional level through policies and programs and on an individual level through the daily interactions of our officers and the public," he said.

He also said the city has improved its police practices since a 2001 federal consent decree put in place reform measures, resulting in a department that "largely reflects the diversity of the city it serves, has a strong commitment to community policing, and benefits from the most robust and effective civilian oversight of any major city in the country."

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Johnson pointed to a final report from the consent decree's independent monitor saying that "benign neglect will endanger the hard-won progress that the LAPD has made."

Mayor Eric Garcetti's nomination of Johnson to the Police Commission -- and now his election as president -- comes as the panel struggles to contain protesters whose demonstrations have prompted its members to halt two recent meetings. The previous commission president, Steve Soboroff, recently proposed decorum rules to prohibit public speakers from "repetitious, personal, impertinent or profane remarks" in an effort to tamp down the tone of the meetings, which have grown raucous in recent weeks.

The since-revised rules no longer contain those prohibitions, in response to concerns raised by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys that the rules could trample on free speech rights and public meeting laws.

Many of the demonstrators at recent meetings have been protesting police shootings of unarmed black men, such as Ezell Ford, along with other people killed by police in the last year, and are calling for changes in police practices, as well as the firing of the officers who shot Ford. Recent protests have also include criticism of the police commissioners themselves, with some calling for some members to be replaced.

Johnson comes to the commission following a stint on the Airport Commission, and filled a spot vacated by Paula Madison, whose term on the police panel expired. During a City Council confirmation hearing earlier this month, Johnson cited his participation on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club and the Los Angeles Urban League as evidence of his community involvement.

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