Why Karen Bass’ stance on law enforcement has upset some progressives

Karen Bass speaks into a microphone at a lectern in front of a crowd of supporters.
Rep. Karen Bass speaks to supporters Oct. 16 at Los Angeles Trade Tech College at the kickoff to her campaign for mayor.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, May 2. I’m Justin Ray.

Crime is a major topic in Los Angeles. Everyone agrees that we should reduce it, but who will get it done? With the June 7 primary coming up, I decided to take a look at the positions — and criticisms — of U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who had been the front-runner and is in a dead heat for first place in the polls.

Bass has been criticized by some progressives for her stances on law enforcement. As The Times has explained, “even some of Bass’ longtime supporters have begun warning publicly that her more moderate stances put her at risk of dampening enthusiasm among the city’s progressive voters.”

So what are those stances? Let’s explore.

Bass wants more hiring at the LAPD. She said that as mayor, she would move 250 Los Angeles police officers out of desk jobs and into patrol. She would add hundreds of civilian employees at the LAPD, in a bid to free up officers from performing clerical duties. She also called for the department to hire more detectives and investigators, highlighting the fact that the LAPD solved just over half of the city’s murders in 2020.


Bass’ plan for homelessness includes help from law enforcement. When Bass unveiled her plan for homeless encampments, she promised to house 15,000 people in her first year. However, her proposal also calls for law enforcement to provide backup to homeless outreach workers.

Bass is emphatically against defunding the police. Bass publicly slammed the rallying cry, telling the Washington Post in June 2020 — only a few weeks after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis — that it was “probably one of the worst slogans ever.” She told the publication, “I’m on record — radio, TV, print, hundreds of times — saying that I don’t support defund the police,” she said.

Although they object to some of Bass’ ideas, her progressive critics are not any happier with the other big-name candidates in the race. The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times and released earlier this month, found Bass and developer Rick Caruso running neck-and-neck at the top of the field.

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On Sunday, five candidates running to be the next mayor of L.A. laid out their plans to address crime, homelessness, and climate change. At the debate held at Cal State Los Angeles, discussions became especially heated when the candidates were asked about the “broken window” theory of policing. But before the debate even began, a Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles leader was forcibly removed by campus police. Los Angeles Times

Melina Abdullah is carried out of the Cal State Los Angeles debate hall Sunday night by campus police.
Melina Abdullah is removed by police before the start of a mayoral debate Sunday on the Cal State L.A. campus.
(Ringo Chiu / For The Times)

Oprah Winfrey chats with The Times. Reporter Marissa Evans wrote a story about her father’s death from COVID-19, connecting the tragedy to the greater trend of Black male lives cut short. Oprah Winfrey said the story inspired her to talk to Evans about her own experiences with the American healthcare system: “Even as a person of note, with a name, I would never go into a hospital by myself,” Winfrey said. She also discussed serving as executive producer of “The Color of Care,” a documentary focused on how COVID-19 has exposed racial inequities in the healthcare system. Los Angeles Times

Oprah Winfrey appears in a studio shot photo.
“I am appalled,” Oprah Winfrey says of the pandemic. “I don’t recognize a country where you’ve lost nearly a million people and there hasn’t been some form of remembering that is significant.”
(Smithsonian Channel / Harpo Productions)

A speeding Mercedes. Two kids killed. Should a Hidden Hills socialite face a murder trial? Rebecca Grossman faces 34 years to life in prison if convicted. Los Angeles Times

A former federal informant who went missing for a year appears to have spent the weekend alone at an El Sereno high school before he was found dead on the school campus, authorities said Friday. Cleaning crews at Woodrow Wilson High School found Valentin Broeksmit’s body just before 7 a.m. on Monday April 25. Broeksmit had worked with federal authorities investigating former President Trump’s relationship with the German financial giant Deutsche Bank. The Los Angeles Times

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Who will build California’s electric vehicle charging stations — and why it matters. The state is expected to need more than 1.2 million chargers by 2030 to address the fueling demands of the 7.5 million electric vehicles anticipated to be on the roads. Hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars have been budgeted to create that infrastructure. Labor and environmental advocates have been working to pair public investment with training standards to ensure fair employment conditions. Capital and Main

L.A. Times electoral endorsements for 2022. Election results could bring a significant shift in the political landscape. To help voters choose, The Times’ editorial page publishes endorsements based on candidate interviews and independent reporting. Los Angeles Times


Sacramento sheriff child porn investigation uncovers dozens of U.S. victims. Investigators arrested a man suspected of using social media to lure children into performing sexual acts. Demetrius Carl Davis, 24, was arrested on suspicion of committing a lewd or lascivious act with a child younger than 14, according to Sacramento County Jail records. Investigators believe Davis communicated online with more than 100 children from late 2020 through early December 2021.Sacramento Bee

Santa Ana police are searching for a man who shot into a car carrying three high school students, killing one and wounding another. Los Angeles Times

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Consequences of severe drought and climate change ripple across California. NBC’s Lester Holt talked to California’s Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, as well as local farmers, about the consequences of severe drought and climate change in the state. NBC



‘We are scared. We are frustrated. Everyday something happens.’ As more unhoused people shelter in Union Station overnight, janitors and retail workers face constant threats, erratic behavior and assaults. Their union is demanding better protection to make the property safer. Los Angeles Times

Travelers make their way through L.A.’s Union Station on Wednesday.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Trevor Bauer suspended for 324 games by MLB; new accuser emerges. Bauer has not pitched for the Dodgers since June 28, the day before a San Diego woman accused him of sexual assault during two encounters at his Pasadena home. Los Angeles Times

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Today’s California memory is from Betty Wale:

Our family was thrilled that our son was accepted at UCSD. We drove from Canada and arrived in San Diego on Sept. 10, only to wake up in our hotel room to watch the horrors of 9/11 on TV. However, our plans remained intact, and our son went on to graduate and today is a structural engineer licensed in the state of California. The many visits to California since then bring fond memories of those early college days and the opportunities they provided. California will always hold a special place in my heart.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


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