LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — It has been a little more than a year since the murder of George Floyd sparked global protests and calls for change from the highest levels of government, but the question of what comes next remains.
David Turner III is a member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and is also part of the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, which works to decriminalize communities of color. He said since the mass protests sparked by Floyd’s death, the narrative around public safety and defunding police have become part of public discourse.
He said some of those discussions has actually resulted in material change.
“When we’re talking about initiatives like Youth Justice Reimagined, when we’re talking about what happened at LAUSD where we defunded school police by 35% and invested that money into Black student achievement,” he said.
Turner said activists have also been working to cut the Los Angeles Police Department budget. He said they believe the best way to prevent police violence is to reduce contact between officers and the community and reinvest that money into community programs and services.
He works with the People’s Budget L.A. coalition, which has denounced the L.A. City Council’s vote to increase LAPD’s budget by 3% in the upcoming fiscal year. The mayor’s office said the budget needed to be increased due to the growing number of homicides and the need for more officers to replace those who have retired and left the profession.
“There needs to be continued pressure to push back on not only the mayor’s budget, but also the L.A. County CEO’s budget that doesn’t invest in the reimagined forms of community safety,” Turner said.
However, former L.A. Sheriff Jim McDonnell said defunding the police was not the answer.
“If you’re cutting the budget, you’re cutting people, you’re cutting officers, the ability to be able to respond when you call 911,” he said.
McDonnell said he believes there needs to be a balance in how funding is distributed between policing and community-based organizations and programs.
“Yes, we do need the police,” he said. “Yes, we do need social programs, we do need youth programs and sports programs and education is so critical. All of these have to work in unison.”
McDonnell, who has spent 40 years in law enforcement, said public perception of police has gotten worse — something he believes not only hurts communities now, but also into the future.
“The demonization, I would call it, of police in the last year or so has created a situation where those that can leave the profession often have,” he said. “But it also has an impact on those, the best and the brightest, that we can try and recruit to become new officers; they’re not coming the way they used to.”
McDonnell said he believes both sides need to come together and meet in the middle to achieve real, lasting progress. But Turner said activists believe meaningful change can only come by immediately addressing systemic racism in policing and uprooting the systems that led to the current situation.