Concern about the coronavirus has upended the weekly public meetings held by the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, the oversight panel of one of the country’s largest police forces.
In an email sent Friday, the Board of Police Commissioners announced that future meetings would be canceled in pursuant with guidance from the mayor’s office issued on Thursday to try to slow the spread of the virus. A special community meeting that was scheduled to be held at Nickerson Gardens on Monday has also been postponed.
The meetings — held on Tuesday mornings — will be canceled until the city’s Information Technology Agency implements a telephonic or video conferencing system that would allow the sessions to continue, the email stated.
Appointed by the mayor, the five civilian police commissioners oversee the operations of the LAPD, set department policies and evaluate the chief. One of their most crucial roles is to decide whether police shootings and other serious uses of force were appropriate.
Richard Tefank, the commission’s executive director, said he’s not concerned about how the changes will affect the panel’s ability to function.
“The commission performs oversight all the time whether it is meeting or not,” he said. “The president of the commission routinely interfaces with the chief of police on a variety of matters. Just because they’re not meeting does not mean they’re not involved with the oversight of the department.”
People will still be able to submit public comment by emailing individual police commissioners (whose addresses are available on the LAPD’s website) or by calling the commission’s office. Tefank said the commission was in the process of creating an email address that can receive public comment while its meetings are canceled.
Hamid Khan, who regularly attends the commission meetings as a member of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, said that regardless of how and when the meetings take place, the concerns that he has about LAPD — such as its use of data-driven policing — still stand. He worried that the cancellations could “create a paralysis” in addressing those issues.
But Commissioner Steve Soboroff said it was the responsibility of the commissioners to ensure that the public knows it is not being ignored during this time.
“People have the right to tell us what they think,” he said. “What concerns me is that if the meetings are postponed or delayed or canceled, the public needs to feel and needs to know that we have the ability to hear what’s on their mind, irrespective of the commission meeting not happening.”