Los Angeles Mayor Criticized for Low-Key Approach to Police Shootings

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at a news conference on the Police Commission's decision regarding the two officers involved in the Ezell Ford case. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at a news conference on the Police Commission’s decision regarding the two officers involved in the Ezell Ford case. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti met with Ezell Ford’s mother at First AME Church. It was a historically resonant setting for a talk about Ford, a mentally ill black man killed by police. Founded in the late 19th century by some of Los Angeles’ earliest black residents, the church stands amid streets laid waste in riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King.

 

“It was a really beautiful meeting between the two of us, I think,” the mayor told reporters on Tuesday after speaking with Tritobia Ford. “She was able to just talk about what it felt like to have lost her son and her quest for justice for him.”

Ford later gave her own verdict on her time with L.A.’s top elected official: While she was grateful for the mayor’s effort, she said, the meeting came “10 months late.” Her son was shot to death by officers in South L.A. last summer. Only after she criticized Garcetti on television last weekend for his inattention to the case had he personally reached out to her.

The encounter inside First AME was characteristic of Garcetti’s challenges in recent weeks, as he has tried to calibrate his reactions to two high-profile police shootings of young black men.

The mayor is known for using his bully pulpit as leader of America’s second-largest city with more restraint than some of his outspoken predecessors. His supporters say he eschews publicity for the more meaningful work of crafting policy and back-channel coalition building.

But at a time when officers’ killings of young black men have tested big-city mayors across the country, some question how well Garcetti’s low-key style can be adapted to the combustible politics of race and policing.

Last month, one of the city’s top homeless services officials faulted the mayor, along with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, for not showing up at an emotionally charged community meeting called in response to the fatal police shooting of Brendon Glenn, an unarmed 29-year-old who lived on the streets in Venice.

“Where is the mayor? Where is the chief of police?” Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commissioner Mike Neely said at the meeting. “I don’t think they realize this person was someone people really cared about.”

Last week, on the eve of the city Police Commission’s ruling on whether deadly force was justified in the Ford case, the mayor flew to Washington, D.C. With a small group of demonstrators encamped outside Getty House, the mayoral residence, Garcetti tried to leave through a back entrance. He was confronted by activists who shouted at him as he peered out the passenger window of a black SUV.

“You always run,” one protester said. The episode was caught on video and broadcast on the nightly news.

Other urban leaders haven’t necessarily fared well with a more hands-on approach.

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SOURCE: PETER JAMISON 
The Los Angeles Times

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