Last November, we had the national elections…and then in March we had (most of) our Los Angeles municipal elections. But now it’s May and time for yet another election day.
Tomorrow – Tuesday, May 16 – Angelenos will go to the polls once again, this time to vote on a potential amendment to the City Charter. And for most people in our mid-town area, this will be the only item on the ballot. (Note: there are also a couple of school board races taking place tomorrow, including one for a very hotly contested seat on the west side, but those districts are mostly outside the Buzz’s general readership area. Also, the City Council District 1 seat is up for grabs, too.)
Charter Amendment C, which will be the one ballot item decided citywide tomorrow, would change the composition of disciplinary review panels for the Los Angeles Police Department. Currently, such panels are made up of two high-ranking LAPD officers and one civilian. But Charter Amendment C would allow officers facing such hearings to have the option of a panel composed entirely of civilians instead. The amendment specifies that the civilians would have to meet certain eligibility standards, including at least seven years’ experience in arbitration, mediation or similar work…but it does not specify “the qualifications of, selection procedures for, and compensation of the civilian members,” which would be left up to a new city ordinance to be drafted later if the charter amendment passes.
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, those in favor of the amendment, which is supported by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the entire Los Angeles City Council, say the option for an all-civilian disciplinary panel could “help assure officers that they’ll get a fair hearing” because studies show that civilians on such panels tend to be more lenient than police officers.
Opponents of the amendment, however, say that more lenient all-civilian panels could lead to “misbehaving” officers not receiving the discipline they deserve. There is also some controversy, according to the Times story, about whether or not the measure – “a product of extensive talks between Garcetti and the Los Angeles Police Protective League,” which supported the mayor’s recent re-election – is really more of a “political favor” than proper or effective reform. Those who recommend a “no” vote include the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter, the League of Women Voters, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Los Angeles Times and the L.A. Daily News.
In general, voter turnout in city elections tends to be notoriously low, especially in recent years. (The March elections, which included not only the mayoral and several city council elections, but also the much-publicized and discussed Measure S, and – in some areas – a special election to fill the District 34 congressional seat, saw only 11% of eligible voters come to the polls.) So this election, with only one rather “inside baseball” item on the ballot for many citizens, also promises a fairly low turnout.
But that just means your vote counts even more than usual. So please take a few minutes to find your polling place…and vote on Tuesday – your city needs you!
[This story has been updated to add the organizations recommending “no” votes on Charter Amendment C.]