For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday selected women to lead the oversight panel of one of the nation’s largest police forces.
In unanimous votes, commissioners picked Eileen Decker to be president and Shane Murphy Goldsmith as vice president. The leaders typically serve two years in those roles.
Among her priorities, Decker said she wants to hold more meetings throughout the community and make sure the department’s de-escalation policies are embedded throughout the ranks. She also plans to ask Inspector General Mark Smith to audit those practices. She also vowed to make sure commissioners conduct fair reviews of use-of-force cases, noting it’s the most important role of the panel.
“We can help expand Angelenos’ trust in the LAPD,” Decker said, noting the department needs to build upon racial, ethnic and gender diversity when hiring new officers. “I’m committed to listening to you and hearing your perspective.”
Decker, who joined the commission in October, has spent years in law enforcement positions.
She 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.
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.
Goldsmith, who joined the commission in September 2016, is the president and chief executive officer at the Liberty Hill Foundation, an L.A.-based group that connects philanthropists and community organizers to address racial, economic, environmental and LGBTQ issues.
“I am eager to assist President Decker in providing the necessary leadership to build upon the past successes of both the commission and department to move us forward,” Goldsmith said in a statement.
The meeting turned contentious after LAPD Assistant Chief Robert Arcos briefed commissioners on incidents in the last week, including two in which officers fatally shot armed suspects.
For about 90 minutes, dozens of activists each spent two minutes lambasting commissioners for not asking questions about the incidents and for not addressing concerns raised weekly in the meetings. Several speakers accused the panel of rubber-stamping all the department’s requests. Another warned that the activism will grow if commissioners don’t start listening to the public.
Decker told the group the panel does not ask about the incidents because commissioners will have to determine whether officers followed departmental policies.