Garcetti says new appointee to Police Commission ‘meets the moment’
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has appointed Lou Calanche, a youth advocate and nonprofit executive from Ramona Gardens, to the city’s five-member Police Commission, pending approval by the City Council.
Calanche, founder and executive director of the organization Legacy LA, will replace Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa, who has not attended commission meetings in months because of an illness and recently told Garcetti that she wished to step down from the unpaid board.
Garcetti said Figueroa-Villa is “irreplaceable,” but Calanche “is somebody who meets the moment” in that she doesn’t shy away from a challenge and has a track record of working as a “bridge builder” between officers and community members.
“She is somebody who knows how to go up to a beat cop and work with her closer and get her to integrate in the community, and she knows how to get a young person headed in the wrong direction to come back” into the community fold and choose a better path, Garcetti said.
“What I want is good, committed, smart, experienced human beings — and she is one of them,” he said. “It really takes an exceptional person to step up in this moment.”
Calanche, 51, who grew up in the Ramona Gardens public housing community in Boyle Heights and still works with youths there, said she is eager to amplify and center the voices of L.A.'s young people in the conversation about how policing should look moving forward — at a time when activists, community members, elected officials and law enforcement officers all see a need for change.
“If there is any opportunity to make a change, it’s right now,” the Montecito Heights resident said. “I really see this opportunity to be a part of an effort to change not only how we serve our communities through policing, but also to improve the relationships we have between community and law enforcement.”
The civilian Police Commission is responsible for a range of issues involving the Los Angeles Police Department, including shaping policy, approving budget expenditures and reviewing police shootings, operations and special programs.
The City Council’s public safety committee is scheduled to take up Calanche’s appointment Tuesday, before the full council considers it.
If approved, Calanche would would join a commission that has ushered in significant reforms in recent years, but has also come under intense scrutiny from activists in the wake of protests against police killings of Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Demonstrators have accused the commission of being too cozy with — and little more than a rubber stamp for — LAPD Chief Michel Moore and other police commanders, including on matters of protest control, for which the department is now being sued, and in cases in which officers have used force and injured people.
The virtual Zoom meetings that the commission has held since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have showcased a deep anger at police among some members of the public, and at times have devolved into personal attacks on the commissioners themselves.
Garcetti said Calanche will “bring a perspective of on-the-ground neighborhood activism” to the commission that will help her weather criticism.
“She has the sort of authority that is unimpeachable,” Garcetti said. “She’s in the trenches every single day.”
Growing up in Ramona Gardens, there was always distrust between cops and community members, Calanche said. As a kid, she was taught that you never wanted to call the police.
Today, she knows that “that’s not the type of service we want for our city,” she said, and she hopes she can help ensure that no kids feel that way moving forward.
“Some people will throw rocks and say I sold out, but I’ve worked so hard my entire life to change conditions in my community, never left my community and work every day to make things better for young people,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’m here to do the work and speak up when I need to speak up.”
The commission’s other members did not respond Monday to a request for comment on Calanche’s pending appointment.
Calanche holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Loyola Marymount University and a master’s degree in public administration from USC.
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