LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As activists intensify their criticism of the LAPD for using deadly force on suspects, the new president of the L.A. Police Commission has come under intense scrutiny, too. Some protesters have even called out the new commissioner at meetings with personal attacks.
In his first two meetings as president on the Los Angeles Police Commission this month, Matthew Johnson has been verbally accosted by audience members who claim he’s a “token” appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti — a reference to Johnson being the only African-American among the five-member board. The board sets policies for the LAPD and is the liaison between the community and department.
“It’s an overall frustration with the department and frustration with what’s going on throughout the whole country,” Johnson told KCAL9’s Dave Lopez. “I’m doing my best not to take it personally.”
Disorder at commission meetings has forced the entertainment attorney, who serves on the board as a volunteer, to do some policing of his own.
In his first meeting, on Sept. 15, Johnson cleared the room and recessed the meeting. In his second meeting, on Sept. 29, things were comparably tame. Johnson only removed six protesters. Protesters in the group “Black Lives Matter” are among the most vocal critics of the department.
Criticism of the police department is unlikely to subside anytime soon. A report from the Guardian this summer found that the LAPD had killed more people in the first half of the year than any other law enforcement agency in the country.
As recently as last weekend, two officers shot and killed a woman wielding a knife, which has added to unrest among activists concerned that the department is heavy-handed in its use of deadly force.
Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview that he was particularly interested in reevaluating how officers use force on suspects armed with knives. Among the police commission’s duties is reviewing cases where officers have fired shots at suspects.
“I took this job because I thought I could make a difference,” Johnson said. “That’s the only reason.”