The union representing Los Angeles police officers lashed out at Mayor Eric Garcetti Friday, objecting to his use of the word "killers" while discussing proposed law enforcement funding cuts with a group of black community leaders, but Garcetti said his words were being "twisted."
"Eric, do you really believe that Los Angeles police officers are killers?" said Detective Jamie McBride, a member of the Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors.
"The same officers that provide you 24-hour security extra measures at your residence 365 days a year? The same officers that came to came to your political rescue when crime was out of control? … I don't think so, Eric."
On Thursday, Garcetti spoke to a group of black community leaders about the anti-police-brutality protests that have rocked the city over the past week, and about his proposal to slash as much as $150 million in funding from the Los Angeles Police Department's $1.8 billion budget in favor of financing social-service programs in black neighborhoods.
The event at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church was also attended by other elected officials, LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
When asked by reporters about his comment, Garcetti said he stood by his comments and that reports of his statements were taken out of context.
"It is so important what we say, but it's also so important to listen to what we say," Garcetti said. "But when I talked about killers, I said, our collective burden here in this society is that we let black men and women die in this city."
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As Garcetti was discussing the proposed police funding cut, he said, "We must lead. I got calls from mayors around the country, some of them saying,
I'm so excited,' the other ones saying,What the hell did you do? Now I (have to) shift money.' That's exactly the point. It starts someplace, and we say we are going to be who we want to be or we're going to continue being the killers that we are."
Speaking on MSNBC Friday, Garcetti emphatically stated that the union was taking his remark out of context, and "I'll never let my words get twisted."
"I said all of us, meaning 100% of us as Americans, we make a choice to allow death to happen in this country, to allow if you grew up in Watts to have 12 years less of life than if you grew up in Bel-Air," Garcetti said.
"Do we want to say you should have a four-to-six-times higher chance of dying in childbirth if you're a black woman (than) a white woman, have 10 times more household wealth depending on the color of your skin or not? These things kill people every single day."
McBride, a 30-year veteran of the police department, said union members have lost "all confidence" in the mayor, although the union has not undertaken a formal no-confidence vote.
The union on Friday morning issued a blistering statement in response to the "killers" comment, saying, "Eric has apparently lost his damn mind,"
and suggesting that if the city had a charter provision allowing the removal of a mayor for illness or incapacity, "we'd plead for it to be invoked."
At a midday news conference, McBride said the union has serious reservations about Garcetti's ability to lead.
"As far as the mayor's mental health, I think that the mayor, no joking around, I think … with the pandemic, now with the current situation in Los Angeles, we are honestly concerned about the mental health," McBride said.
Garcetti, on MSNBC, acknowledged the politics that are in play.
"As you can see from both sides, sometimes people pull something out and there's a lot of, you know, arrows that will come at you," he said. "But don't retreat, is what I would say to all leaders in America. … We have a moment. This is the moment I've certainly been waiting for.
"This is the moment you've been waiting for. Don't be defensive.
Don't do political things. Do what's right and try to build a coalition. I invite our police union -- I talked to them yesterday morning -- and I invite anybody to be a part of this, but we're not going to wait just because of politics. Were going to do what's right in this moment to build a multi-racial democracy in America."
The LAPPL has taken offense at the idea of pulling funds from the police department. Some community groups outraged at police brutality have been pushing for a nearly wholesale defunding of the LAPD, calling for what would basically amount to a 90% slashing of the agency's budget.
While the city's proposal is nowhere near as dramatic, it represents a major reversal from Garcetti's position of just a few weeks ago, when he proposed increasing the LAPD budget during the 2020-21 fiscal year.
McBride said the union was not consulted on the proposed budget reduction. He said there are other departments that can take the cuts without eliminating Garcetti's original $122 million proposed increase to the LAPD.
McBride said he supports funding community programs, but not at the expense of the LAPD.
"There are other budgets, but because people are verbally attacking and physically attacking the Los Angeles Police Department to make those (political) groups happy, they're saying they're cutting from our budget,"
"What you need to do is ask the citizens of Los Angeles, Do they feel comfortable with cutting $150 million from the police budget?' I would say, No.' Can you imagine if that money was cut and the same situation happened in a year or two? I think it would be 10 times worse."
Garcetti announced the proposed funding cut Wednesday, saying $250 million in his proposed budget would be shifted, including $150 million from the LAPD. Garcetti had earlier committed to not trimming any public safety budgets.
Garcetti said these cuts were not an "attack" on the LAPD.
Garcetti and Police Commission President Eileen Decker also announced a series of other measures, including a review of training procedures and beginning the use of an independent prosecutor to review officer-misconduct cases.
McBride said the LAPD has put in place every measure that's been adopted regarding how to engage suspects with use of force.
"The mayor and the Police Commission president should crack open our duty manual and take a look for themselves," McBride said.
"Every rookie learns in the academy how to deescalate a situation.
They are reliant on their training to calm a situation … to know that a peaceful resolution is the best resolution to any crisis situation."