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Councilman Joe Buscaino, a longtime LAPD officer, enters race for L.A. mayor in 2022

Councilman Joe Buscaino stands with his hands on his hips next to an outdoor dining area
Councilman Joe Buscaino speaks with people dining in San Pedro in May. Buscaino will kick off his campaign for Los Angeles mayor on Monday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino is entering the 2022 mayor’s race, saying he will use his background as a police officer to tackle the city’s urgent issues of homelessness and rising crime.

Buscaino, a Democrat who represents a district stretching from Watts to San Pedro, plans to launch his campaign Monday. He told The Times in an interview that the city is facing an emergency as thousands of people live on the streets, trash piles up in neighborhoods across the city and violence surges in South L.A.

“This isn’t the city I know and love,” Buscaino said.

Buscaino said that when friends and family members have questioned whether a police officer could be elected to the city’s highest office, he pointed to Tom Bradley, who served two decades with the LAPD before joining the City Council and, in 1973, becoming L.A.'s only Black mayor to date. Buscaino said his role as a senior lead officer in San Pedro was “focused on problem solving, on creating partnerships to improve the quality of life here.”

Buscaino, 46, who served for 15 years in the Los Angeles Police Department and is currently a reserve officer, is the first City Council member to enter the 2022 mayor’s race. Others, including Kevin de León and Mark Ridley-Thomas, have not publicly ruled out a run.

City Atty. Mike Feuer announced his candidacy last year and has raised more than $418,000 through the end of December, according to city filings.

City Atty. Mike Feuer filed paperwork to raise money for a run for Los Angeles mayor. He is the first entrant in the race.

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Even before Buscaino’s announcement, the topic of policing was likely to be a central issue in the mayor’s race as activists seek to reduce police funding and as the department’s handling of protests over racial injustice draws scrutiny.

Also, a recent survey found that many Los Angeles residents want to see some police funding shifted to alternative social services and want trained crisis response specialists to respond to some calls.

Buscaino was one of two council members to oppose a decision to cut $150 million from the multibillion-dollar LAPD budget last year. He pushed instead to expand the department’s Community Safety Partnership program, which focuses on fostering relationships with officers and locals but has been criticized by some activists.

Asked how he will respond to activists likely to criticize him for opposing cuts to the police budget, Buscaino characterized such defunding calls as sloganeering and called the LAPD the “largest reformed police department in the country.”

He added that he supports initiatives such as the voter-approved Measure J, which will divert more Los Angeles County money to social services and jail diversion programs.

Besides policing, homelessness will be a central topic in the mayor’s race.

Buscaino has favored restrictive rules that dictate where homeless people can sleep, arguing such rules ensure that the sidewalks will remain passable for everyone. He also recently pushed to resume cleanups at homeless encampments, a process that had been paused because of health concerns during the pandemic.

Some activist groups are critical of the cleanups, arguing that they help criminalize homelessness and that people lose their belongings.

Buscaino had no political experience when he defeated Assemblyman Warren Furutani, who had the backing of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to win the council seat in 2012.

Today, he heads the council’s Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee, and he was a big booster of efforts to secure the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be played in cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

More recently, he led an aggressive but short-lived campaign to reopen schools and threatened to go to court to force campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District to reopen for in-person instruction.

A first-generation Italian American whose parents emigrated from Sicily in the 1960s, Buscaino is well known to many in San Pedro but is probably less familiar to residents in other parts of the city.

Others are expected to announce their candidacies in the coming months.

Jessica Lall, chief executive of the Central City Assn., is considering running, according to a source familiar with her thinking. She declined to comment.

Businessman Rick Caruso, who has considered running for mayor in the past, is also again pondering a run, according to a source.


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