LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The senior pastor of a prominent Los Angeles church is at the center of a growing controversy after he purportedly compared police officers to the Ku Klux Klan in a recent sermon.

Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of the First AME Church delivered the sermon in mid-January with special zeal, trying to rouse his congregation to get involved in issues like police violence.

Boyd is seen in video from the Jan. 18 sermon stating:

“Today, lynchings still occur but in a different form. The Klansmen today do not raid in the night raids with robes on and hoods on. But what they do is put a blue uniform on and a gold badge and take a baton or a police weapon, and they come at the least time we expect them and they take the lives of our young black men and young brown men. They take their lives long before they’re able to learn what God has in store for them in life.”

When the video started circulated online, though, some officers and deputies felt they were all being condemned as KKK members.

Neither LAPD Chief Charlie Beck nor L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell showed up two weeks later at the First AME service they were expected to attend. Police sources told CBS2/KCAL9’s Dave Bryan it was because of the controversy over the video.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose office says he expressed his strong opposition to the statement in a conversation with Boyd, did attend last Sunday’s service and made a direct statement about it when he spoke to the congregation.

Garcetti said: “We cannot equate the white robe of the night rider with the blue uniform of the police officer, and we must not equate dark skin with dark intent.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League released a statement that said: “The LAPPL is deeply disturbed and astonished by Pastor Boyd’s comments. LAPD officers have worked relentlessly to build and foster a relationship between the community and the police. Unfortunately, comments like those of Pastor Boyd only serve to tear down what has taken many years to cultivate.”

Boyd declined a request to speak on camera but said in his sermon that he was quoting a letter from other black clergy members.

In addressing the growing controversy, Boyd said Sunday: “My words in that sermon nor my actions in my daily practice were not and are not intended to either be divisive or injurious. My intentions were one of raising awareness and calling for engagement.”

McDonnell also released a statement, which said in part: “There are unfortunate moments when dialogue and debate can dissolve into dissension or misunderstanding.” McDonnell further said he looks forward to working in partnership with Pastor Boyd. Click here to read McDonnell’s full statement.

Meanwhile, the LAPD said the department will work through this and also hopes to develop a good working relationship with Boyd.

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