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When it comes to L.A.’s police chief, some council members are keeping quiet

Los Angeles police Chief LAPD Chief Michel Moore
The LAPD’s outspoken critics on the City Council were silent on Chief Michel Moore’s reappointment.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s David Zahniser providing your weekly infusion of City Hall info, with help from Julia Wick and Rebecca Ellis.

The LAPD was an immense target during the last election campaign, with many of the candidates for City Council offering their lacerating assessments of the department’s shortcomings.

Councilmember Curren Price, while seeking a third term, denounced the LAPD’s botched detonation of illegal fireworks in his district, which severely damaged homes and injured 17. First-time candidate Eunisses Hernandez voiced outrage over the fatal police shooting of a 14-year-old in North Hollywood. Hugo Soto-Martinez, another political newcomer, railed against the number of deadly police shootings overall.

All three won their races. But after joining the council in December, all three went quiet on perhaps the most critical law enforcement decision made so far this year in L.A.: the Police Commission’s vote to reappoint Police Chief Michel Moore.

Last week, the deadline for the council to intervene on Moore’s fate came and went without a peep from the LAPD’s outspoken City Hall critics. Hernandez, Soto-Martinez, Price and four of their colleagues — all occupying the council’s left flank — repeatedly declined to tell The Times whether the chief, who has portrayed himself as a reformer, deserved another term.

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The council wields enormous power over the police chief’s selection — in some ways, as much as or more than Mayor Karen Bass, who announced her support for Moore on the day of the commission’s vote. Under the City Charter, council members could have introduced a motion to assert jurisdiction over the commission’s decision, forcing a discussion of Moore’s record. That move, and a veto of his reappointment, would have required 10 votes.

Soto-Martinez has repeatedly declined to give his assessment of Moore, saying Friday he has been focused on changes to the LAPD’s disciplinary process. Over the last month, Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Heather Hutt, Katy Yaroslavsky and Nithya Raman also did not respond to inquiries about their assessment of Moore.

As a result, criticism of the chief has fallen to activist groups and some of the candidates who lost their races last year. Dulce Vasquez, who lost to Price in June, said she believed Moore did not deserve a second term, due to his response to the fireworks debacle in South L.A. and his record on fatal police shootings. Vasquez said she was disappointed to hear so little from Price about the chief.

“Because of the massive events that have happened in this district, he should at least have something to say,” she said.

When Moore won a second term last month, seven of the 14 responded to The Times’ inquiries about Moore, all saying they supported Bass’ decision. Those council members were Bob Blumenfield, Kevin de León, Paul Krekorian, John Lee, Tim McOsker, Traci Park and Monica Rodriguez.

Their numbers meant any push to veto Moore’s reappointment would have been dead on arrival, lacking 10 votes to push forward.

Still, activist Albert Corado, who lost to Soto-Martinez last year, said he would have preferred that someone on the council speak out, even if they lacked the votes to change the outcome. Corado, whose sister was shot to death by police in 2018, said he believes the new council members are trying to show a unified front with the mayor — and aren’t prepared to challenge her decisions.

“Once someone is in power, they’re going to play the game,” he said.

State of play

POLICE REFORM: It sounds a bit like a buddy comedy — one guy is a self-described abolitionist on policing systems, the other a former lawyer for the police officers union. But there were McOsker and Soto-Martinez, two newly installed council members standing together at a podium to Friday to announce measures aimed at reforming the LAPD disciplinary system. Both men acknowledged they come from different backgrounds and said they’re eager to work together on the city’s problems.

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— REDISTRICTING RULES: The City Council came out against a state bill to require that L.A. have an independent redistricting process, after a heated back-and-forth between several council members. Council President Krekorian and Councilmember Raman said they too want an independent commission, but argued that such a process is best left to the city. Councilmembers Rodriguez and De León cast the two dissenting votes.

— PACHECO PUSHES AHEAD: Former Councilmember Nick Pacheco is looking yet again to return to City Hall. This time around, he’s started raising money for a run for the seat held by De León. Pacheco made a similar attempt last year in a different council district in South L.A. However, he failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

MORE ABOUT ‘24: Assemblymember and former labor leader Reggie Jones-Sawyer jumped into the Council District 10 race with a video that hits City Hall over its many corruption scandals. He is challenging Hutt, who was appointed as an interim replacement for suspended Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, now facing corruption charges. Two other candidates have also filed so far: attorney Grace Yoo and activist Channing Martinez, both of whom ran for the seat in 2020.

STAYING PUT: In a series of tweets, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan made clear this week that he won’t be running for Hutt’s council seat next year. “I’m not done with the job they have sent me here to do,” he wrote.

— BUT HAHN IS RUNNING: Over at the county, political veteran Janice Hahn is running for a third term on the Board of Supervisors representing the 4th District, which stretches from Torrance and the L.A.-Long Beach ports to Whittier and Vernon. Hahn served on the City Council for a decade, plus five years in the U.S. House of Representatives. If she wins in 2024, it would be her last term under county term limits.

— FUNDRAISING FINE: Former City Councilmember Paul Koretz was hit with a $2,500 fine from the Ethics Commission for holding a campaign fundraiser co-hosted by a commissioner at the Department of Water and Power. The event became a toxic issue for Koretz during his unsuccessful bid for city controller last year. Commissioners are barred under city law from such fundraising activities.

— MEJIA’S MONITORS: Speaking of the controller, the LAPD’s largest union asked City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto to set up a meeting with City Controller Kenneth Mejia about his office’s practice of walking up on police officers and asking them questions. The union said it wants protocols for such interactions. Mejia said he and his staff have behaved professionally.

— SIDEWALK TALK: A judge struck down a plan by the city to tear out as many as 12,000 trees as part of its 30-year plan for fixing broken sidewalks. In his ruling, the judge said the city failed to fully analyze the environmental effects of the plan.

Supporting Ridley-Thomas

The federal corruption case targeting Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas is finally heading to trial next month. But before that happens, a group of religious leaders plans to stage an ecumenical and interfaith “Service in Solidarity” in support of the councilmember, who was suspended by his colleagues in October 2021 after his indictment on bribery and conspiracy charges.

A man speaks into a microphone
Suspended Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at an event for Karen Bass in December, just before she was sworn in as mayor.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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Ridley-Thomas has pleaded not guilty in the case, which focuses on contracts awarded to USC while he was serving on the county Board of Supervisors. The March 5 service in his honor is being organized by South Los Angeles Clergy for Public Accountability, which opposed the suspension of Ridley-Thomas and the move to replace him temporarily with former Councilmember Herb Wesson.

Norman Johnson, pastor of the First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, said he expects at least a few hundred people at the event. Johnson said Ridley-Thomas has meant “a lot” to the Black clergy in South L.A., supporting their activities in various ways.

“We want to express our solidarity with him, our concern for him,” said Johnson, a convener with South Los Angeles Clergy for Public Accountability.

Jury selection is set for March 7.

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Quick hits

  • Who’s running the city? Still Karen Bass. She had two Inside Safe operations this week, moving people indoors in the San Fernando Valley and on the Westside.
  • On the docket for next week: The City Council will take up strategies for carrying out Measure ULA, which is supposed to generate as much as $1.1 billion annually for initiatives that keep people housed and increase the amount of affordable housing citywide.
  • And there’s this: Trial is expected to begin next week in the federal corruption case against former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan. He’s the last man standing in the sprawling racketeering case that targeted former Councilmember Jose Huizar.

Stay in touch

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