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Irvine mayor says councilwoman sent a reprimand for asking police chief to kneel in support of BLM

Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan.
Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan.
(Courtesy of city of Irvine)

Irvine City Councilwoman Farrah Khan was recently sent a “legal letter” reprimanding her for “demanding” that Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel take a knee during a Black Lives Matter protest last week, according to Mayor Christina Shea.

Shea told TimesOC that Khan violated a municipal code.

“As a council member and the mayor, I can’t direct my staff to do anything,” Shea said.

The police chief reports to the city manager, not to the City Council.

Khan said Tuesday that she could not discuss the incident because it was not a matter of public record.

“I think if she’s sharing that information, which was supposed to be client-and-attorney privileged, she’s violating our city orders and should not have made that item public at all,” Khan said. “I did not know that she had shared that with you.”

City spokeswoman Melissa Haley declined to comment.

Shea, who has not gone to any protests in Irvine, said she disagrees with Khan’s decision to attend.

“I reached out to her and said, ‘Why are you there?’" Shea said. "[Khan] said, ‘I am creating the peace.’ I said, ‘That’s not your job; the police create the peace. That’s not your job; you shouldn’t be there.’”

Shea said she finds it inappropriate for members of the City Council to attend protests critical of Irvine law enforcement.

“The reason we don’t participate is because you give a mixed message to your public safety department that you have to oversee and support,” Shea said. “It creates a tension for them.”

The controversy arrives amid a tense political climate in the city.

Shea has been under fire for comments she’s made about Black Lives Matter protests in Irvine, as well as for deleting comments and blocking supporters of the movement who criticize her on Facebook.

“I will not allow my city to become a location for expressions of anger and hate against my residents and my stellar police force, who I stand behind 100%,” Shea said in a “Mayor’s Corner” video posted last week.

She continued that while she supports peaceful demonstrations, “I do not personally support displays that host profanity, comment of our police officers being racist or promoting hostility, especially when families with small children are attending these protests.”

On Friday, Khan spoke at a press conference organized by the Thurgood Marshall Bar Assn., Orange County’s only black bar organization, and activist groups OCERC and Yalla Indivisible.

“Today, we have the opportunity to bring our community members together, to dialogue, to call for action and to heal,” Khan said outside of Irvine City Hall. “This is not the time for divisive mischaracterizations of our citizens as we have unfortunately witnessed from our mayor.

“Speaking up against injustice and protesting peacefully is our right. Working towards eradicating implicit bias and brutality towards the black community is expected and required.”

Khan said at the press conference that she attended the Black Lives Matter protest, listened to the experiences shared by black community members and vowed to work toward improving their lives.

“To infer that people are unpatriotic and support violence because they participated in these protests is unacceptable,” Khan said.

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