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Garcetti nominates longtime advocate for social change to L.A. Police Commission

Garcetti nominates longtime advocate for social change to L.A. Police Commission
Members of the Los Angeles Police Commission, from left Steve Soboroff and Matthew Johnson, meet at LAPD headquarters earlier this year. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

A longtime advocate for social change in Los Angeles could become the city's newest Police Commission member, replacing a member of the oversight panel who is stepping down from her post.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that he had nominated Shane Murphy Goldsmith to the five-person Police Commission. Goldsmith would fill a seat being vacated by Kathleen Kim, an attorney and law professor who focuses on immigrant rights, and has served on the panel since 2013.

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If approved by the City Council, Goldsmith would be the third new police commissioner to join the board in a year.

Kim said she decided to leave the commission at the end of the month to focus on her professional work. She said she appreciated her time as a police commissioner and the opportunity she had to help shape the way the LAPD interacts with immigrants and influence policies aimed at curtailing the of use deadly force.

"I have seen changes that I'm gratified by," she said.

In a statement, Garcetti thanked Kim for her "important contributions" to the commission. He noted her efforts to improve the LAPD's relationship with immigrant communities and in developing the department's new homelessness policy.

"Her work will continue to be felt in the progress she helped to bring about," Garcetti said.

Goldsmith 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 LGBT issues. She currently serves on the city's homeless services authority and worked for Garcetti when he was a city councilman.

Garcetti described Goldsmith as someone driven by a "deep sense of compassion that informs everything she does." Goldsmith, he added, "understands the urgency of conversations" regarding policing.

"I am confident that her values and approach will be an asset to the Police Commission," Garcetti said.

Police commissioners oversee the operations of the 10,000-officer force, set LAPD policies and have an inspector general who investigates and audits the department on their behalf.

In one of their most important roles, commissioners decide whether police shootings and other serious uses of force were appropriate. It's a responsibility that has come under greater scrutiny as police officers across the country have been criticized for how they use force, particularly against African Americans.

Goldsmith's appointment comes as the Police Commission has taken an increasingly hands-on oversight role, particularly when it comes to shootings by officers. The board has directed the LAPD to find ways to reduce those shootings by revamping department rules, revising training and making more less-lethal devices available.

Those efforts have been praised by Garcetti and others across the city, including civil rights leaders. However, some activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement have criticized the commissioners, disrupting their weekly meetings and accusing the board of not doing enough to improve the LAPD.

Kim said she believed the LAPD has been responsive to the public's calls to reduce police shootings, improve de-escalation efforts and mend relationships with residents. But, she said, "those issues are going to continue to be the most challenging."

In an interview, Goldsmith said her primary focus as a police commissioner would be to include the community in the board's efforts to improve the LAPD -- ensuring that "the people who don't trust the police department are part of making the police department the best it can be."

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"I want to help build those bridges," she said. "I want to be proactively engaging people and bringing them to the table and just hammering out those solutions together. That is not going to be easy. But I think that's what we need."

A Santa Monica native, Goldsmith's career has centered on addressing a range of social issues. After college, she managed a homeless shelter set up in the basement of a church in a small Indiana town, later working to address housing policy and build affordable homes. She focused on economic issues as a community organizer in South L.A. Later, she became a senior adviser to then-Councilman Garcetti, who officiated Goldsmith's wedding in 2008, when she and her wife became the first gay couple married in L.A., on the steps of City Hall.

The job in Garcetti's office is where Goldsmith said she began to work with police to address everyday problems in neighborhoods. It gave her a chance to see how police could respond to those concerns, she said, but also that officers are "real people with hard jobs."

Goldsmith's interactions with police have also involved her younger brother, who she said suffers from mental illness and has shuffled between jail and homelessness. That experience, along with Goldsmith's professional work, has focused her attention on a few key issues surrounding policing: de-escalation of force and preventing people from entering or re-entering the criminal justice system.

"People who are experiencing homelessness are vulnerable," she said. "The stakes are a lot higher for them when they interact with police."

Matt Johnson, the president of the Police Commission, welcomed Goldsmith's nomination to the board, describing her as someone "unafraid to take on the toughest issues."

"Shane's background and skill set are exactly what this moment in our city's history calls for," he said.

Goldsmith credited the Black Lives Matter movement for pushing the country's attention onto the sometimes frayed relationships between police and residents, saying that helped create an "incredible opportunity" for change.

"It's why I want to serve on the Police Commission," she said. "There's an opportunity now to make a difference."

Follow me on Twitter: @katemather

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UPDATES:

2:35 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from outgoing commissioner Kathleen Kim and Police Commission President Matt Johnson.

This article was originally published at 10 a.m.

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