Council Public Safety Committee (Price, Supernaw, Austin) Fails To Allow Telephonic Public Testimony At Its June 23 Meeting, Where Chief Luna Presents "Lessons Learned" From Looting/Lawlensness:
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|(June 24, 2020, 5:50 a.m.) -- The City Council's Public Safety Committee (chair Suzie Price, vice chair Daryl Supernaw, member Al Austin) didn't allow audible public testimony (details below) at its June 23/2:30 p.m. meeting which invited LB Police Chief Robert Luna to present an oral report (and respond to questions by Committee members) on "lessons learned" (agenda item term) from May 31-June 1 looting and lawlessness. Other agendized items included discussion of LBPD use of force policies/training on implicit bias and the possibility of creating a "special prosecutor" to handle in cases of police misconduct.
No written materials were provided for any of the Committee's agendized items.
Chief Luna referred to the May 31 six hour period between 4:00 p.m.. and 10 p.m. "six hours of chaos." He repeatedly stated that LBPD prioritized protecting life, defended the policy, noted that no persons had been killed or seriously injured, said prioritizing life is consistent LBPD policy but also voiced regret (several times) that LB businesses had been looted and damaged.
Chief Luna denied (twice) that any orders/directives came from Mayor Garcia or the City Manager or other higher-ups not to stop looters. He said the decision was made by supervisors on scene didn't feel it was safe to do so at the time.
Chief Luna said those actions have been debriefed and have been corrected "and if that happens again, right now, tonight, I can almost assure you that would not occur again." Chair Price's respnse to this was: "OK, great." (AUDIO here.)
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|Chief Luna said unspecified agitators infiltrated and hijacked (Chief's terms) peaceful protest that grew from initially expected hundreds to at least 5,000 people. He the agitators began throwing items at police officers including pieces of concrete, bottles of acid/urine and also feces.
Chief Luna didn't provide a firm time for LBPD's declaration of an "Unlawful Assembly" on Pine Ave. (area 3rd/Broadway) after which officers used "non lethal" but injurious rounds to try and disperse the crowd. Asked by chair Price about one of the rounds that injured a KPCC radio reporter, Chief Luna said it wasn't and isn't LBPD policy to target reporters and what occurred is under investigation.
Asked by Councilman Supernaw about the number of LB businesses damaged. Chief Luna said LBPD has list of 214 locations to date but acknowledged the figure might be 300+ (after Supernaw mentioned but didn't disclose a list his office received from LB's Economic Development Dept.) Chief Luna said LBPD's list reflects locations with thefts/reported crimes in which a police report was filed. (As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, on June 2, Councilwoman Stacy Mungo told KNX/1070 Newsradio that about 170 LB businesses had been looted/damaged.) (AUDIO here.)
Asked about Santa Monica PD having made over 400 arrests while LBPD made only 29 booking arrests to date (the rest being citations (tickets) for curfew violations), Chief Luna said some of those citations may turn into more serious charges as LBPD is actively examining VIDEO and other evidence. He said if some curfew violators are identified as involved in looting or other serious ofenses, arrests will be made.
No Committee members asked about LBPD's sworn staffing level, which is thinner per capita than Los Angeles and Santa Monica. However LB's police staffing level came up in the next Committee agenda item (on use of force policies) when Chief Luna noted that some have urged "defunding" (reducing funding for) LBPD. Chief Luna acknowledged LBPD's officer level was reduced by roughly 20% starting in 2009 from which LB "never recovered."
Councilman Al Austin acknowledged that LBPD is now down by roughly 200 officers from what it previously had. He said addressing this now will be a challenge and LB needs a police that works efficiently and in a smart way with resources it has and added that he prefers officers focusing on quality of life and peace officer roles as opposed to enforcement.
Chair Price acknowledged Councilman Austin's comment but indicated she believes it's likely LBPD budget (like other city departments) will face reductions in FY21.
The Committee never reached an agendized item re City Prosecutor policies regarding police officers (put off to future meeting.)
To date, the full City Council (all nine members with policy setting authority) hasn't discussed the May 31-June 1 events. The three member Public Safety Committee has no policy setting authority but can vote to make recommendations to the Council. It made none regarding its "lessons learned" or other agendized items.
Committee chair Price signaled that the Committee's next meeting is scheduled for July 14 and adjourned the meeting at 4:30 p.m.
The Public Safety Committee conducted its June 23 meeting without inviting any audible public testimony either by telephone or as submitted in writing and read aloud by the City Clerk.
On March 17, 2020 Governor Gavin Newsom's issued Executive Order N-29-20 allowing legislative bodies (like City Councils) to waive certain requirements of the Brown (open meetings) Act if the legislative body "allows members of the public to observe and address the testimony telephonically or otherwise electronically." From March 17 through June 9, LB's Mayor and City Council didn't allow audible public testimony telephonically or otherwise at their meetings. (During the same period, the L. A. County Board of Supervisors and the LA City Council did allow telephonic public testimony and the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education read aloud emailed public comments on agendized and non-agendized items.)
On June 16, the LA City Council began allowing limited (20 callers) telephonic public testimony.
The Public Safety Committee's June 23 agenda indicated the public could submit comments on agenda items by email to the City Clerk or via an "e-comment" system. "E-comments" are supposed to be shown to Councilmembers prior to their meeting but aren't read aloud and aren't visible publicly until after the meeting is over.
On June 12, LBREPORT.com reported on the issue in connection with Council actions between March 17 and June 9. Our coverage included a statement (below) by City Attorney Charles Parkin didn't cite any electronic or technical reasons preventing telephonic public testimony but stating that the Mayor/Council's meting actions complied with the Governor's Order.
[City Att'y Parkin June 12 emailed text] As you are aware, Executive Order N-29-20 relaxed some requirements of the Brown Act for public meetings during the COVID-19 public health crisis by allowing for teleconference meetings when complying with certain requirements. Public meetings must be made accessible to the public telephonically or through other electronic means, and the public must have the ability to offer public comment telephonically or through other electronic means. The notice for the meetings has to include the means by which the public could observe the meeting and provide public comment.
On June 22, LBREPORT.com editorially urged the Public Safety Committee to allow telephonic public testimony and advocated taking certain actions if they didn't (LBREPORT.com here.
Shortly before noon on June 23, LBREPORT.com LLC and its publisher, Bill Pearl, emailed the City Clerk an objection to the Committee's impending failure and urged inclusion of telephonic audible public testimony.
June 24, 2020, 8:35 p.m. Paraphrased statement by Councilman Austin made more precise.
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