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Former U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker nominated to the Los Angeles Police Commission

Former U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker nominated to the Los Angeles Police Commission
Former U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker has been appointed to the Los Angeles Police Commission by Mayor Eric Garcetti. (handout)

Eileen Decker, a former U.S. attorney and deputy mayor, has been nominated to join the Los Angeles Police Commission by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

If her appointment is confirmed by the City Council, Decker will be the second recent addition to the five-member civilian panel, which oversees the LAPD. She will replace entertainment attorney Matt Johnson, who spearheaded major reforms in the department’s use of force and video release policies.

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Dale Bonner, an attorney who is executive chairman of a public infrastructure company and was formerly the state’s secretary of business, transportation and housing, took the seat vacated by Cynthia McClain-Hill, who left for the Board of Water and Power.

On Thursday afternoon, Garcetti submitted a letter to the City Council nominating Decker for the position, which is unpaid.

“She is one of America’s finest public safety professionals, and her forward-thinking approach will help us shape a future for the LAPD that is defined by stronger relationships with all of L.A.’s communities, better technology for officers in the field, and more resources for the men and women who put themselves on the line for us every day,” Garcetti said of Decker in a news release.

Decker, 56, was the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles and several surrounding counties, from 2015 until the Trump administration forced her to resign along with dozens of other head prosecutors in March 2017. She oversaw the prosecutions of former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and his second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, as well as that of Enrique Marquez Jr., an accomplice in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack.

“As deputy mayor and U.S. attorney, I have been continually inspired by the bravery and dedication of our police officers,” Decker said in the news release. “I have also seen firsthand the tremendous strides the LAPD has made to become a national model of constitutional policing.”

In an interview, Decker said that if she is confirmed, she plans to speak with community members, fellow commissioners and others before setting her priorities.

Before becoming U.S. attorney, Decker was a Los Angeles deputy mayor for public safety and homeland security. She began her career in private legal practice, then served as a federal prosecutor for 15 years. She is now a lecturer at the USC Gould School of Law.

With the two recent appointments, the commission will have one African American member — Bonner — and one Latino member, Sandra Figueroa-Villa. The other three members, including Decker, are white. Both Johnson and McClain-Hill are African American.

Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter activist and a professor at Cal State L.A., said Decker’s appointment creates a racial imbalance on the Police Commission. As a former federal prosecutor, Decker is likely to be “very, very pro-cop,” which is incompatible with representing the city’s African American and Latino residents, Abdullah said.

In a written statement, the head of the union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers said he is hopeful that Decker will have an open mind and treat officers fairly.

“We believe that [it] is critical that Ms. Decker and the commission prioritize addressing our department’s staffing shortage, tackling the rise in crime in our neighborhoods, and improving recruitment and retention of officers,” Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said in the statement.

Robert Saltzman, who served on the Police Commission from 2007 to 2016, said he expects Bonner and Decker to continue in the same direction as Johnson and McClain-Hill, who both pushed the department to reduce the number of police shootings, be more transparent and develop better relationships with residents who distrust the LAPD.

“I think Eileen is an excellent addition to the commission,” Saltzman said. “She certainly knows the issues very well. She’s smart and hardworking and is familiar with the city, so I think it’s a great choice.”

5:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background about Decker and the commission, as well as comments from others about her nomination.

This article was originally published at 3:20 p.m.

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