Shane Murphy Goldsmith steps down from the LA Police Commission
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Police Commission began a shift away from an unjust practice that has fallen the hardest on communities of color. Following a report from the Inspector General, the Los Angeles Police Department will begin to shift away from pretextual stops, which allows officers to pull over a motorist for a minor traffic violation and use the stop to investigate a more serious crime.
Pretextual stops don’t address crime. They don’t prevent crime. They do make whole neighborhoods, and thousands of Black men, feel as though they live with targets on their backs.
This move comes on the heels of the tectonic shifts that took place earlier this summer. After the massive wave of protests for Black lives after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, Los Angeles became the first big city to announce a shift in funds from enforcement to care. This was followed by a slew of vital reforms, including—most meaningful to me—the end of the department’s use of the CalGang database to surveil and stigmatize young Black, Brown, and Native American men.
And these changes come as Los Angeles County has voted resoundingly to champion care before punishment. Liberty Hill and our grantees were leaders in the coalition that made the case and won more than 2.1 million YES votes for Measure J. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to see the cries for racial justice from our communities turn into a sea change in local government priorities.
It’s in this environment—as the Department sees an end to unquestioned budget increases, turns away from pretextual stops, shutters CalGangs, and deploys therapeutic teams to respond to mental health calls rather than armed police—that I am sharing with you my decision to resign from the Los Angeles Police Commission.
In 2016, I accepted the appointment to the Los Angeles Police Commission to give voice to the concerns of the communities where I have worked and lived my entire life.
I knew we could do better for Black and Brown and Native American youth, for whom a single encounter with police can alter a life for the worse.
I knew we could do better for people experiencing homelessness or mental health problems, too often coming to harm instead of finding help.
I wanted to honor my brother’s struggles with arrest and incarceration, knowing that for the next young person in his shoes, changes we made today could clear a path to a better tomorrow.
As privileged as I have been to stand in two worlds at once, serving on the Commission at the same time as working with the Liberty Hill grantees calling for change, I believe that now is the time when I can do the most good with both feet planted firmly on the path we walk together with our partners.
Real community safety is more than one budget line for police and another for jail. It means a shared responsibility to keep one another safe—a responsibility that goes from elders to youth, from teachers to healers, from neighboring homes to government buildings.
There is much more work to be done and I look forward to working on it with our grantees and with you.
With love and in solidarity,
I yield my time.
Shane Murphy Goldsmith
Liberty Hill Foundation