An African American anti-crime organization says Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has pulled out of a scheduled meeting at a time when homicides have seen an uptick and there are concerns in the black community regarding racially insensitive comments made by LAPD Det. Frank Lyga.
Community commentator Jasmyne Cannick says there is some speculation inside the group, the Southern California Cease Fire Committee, that the claimed no-show for Wednesday's scheduled meeting at Bethel AME Church in South L.A. is related to the questions Beck would have had to face about Lyga.
However, it should be noted that …
… the organization says Beck has pulled out of planned talks twice before. Vicky D. Lindsey of Cease Fire said in an open letter to the chief that “this is your third time standing us up.”
She said violence in L.A.'s African American community was on the rise despite historic lows for major crimes throughout the city.
“It is totally disrespectful and insensitive” to pull out of the meeting, she wrote. “We're really cool on you. … Have you noticed that your city is on fire? Violence is on the rise. Evidently, you don't care. … We will be discussing why you didn't come … “
Beck is seeking a second 5-year term as chief and, while there doesn't seem much opposition to this, he could certainly use all the friends he can get in South L.A., as all LAPD leaders could.
A November recording of a talk Lyga made to an officer-training class at the Los Angeles Police Academy surfaced recently, and it has reignited the debate over racism inside the LAPD.
The department has come a long way since the days of the Rampart Scandal and a federal consent decree that regulated the department's diversity protocols. The LAPD is now so-called “majority minority” because white cops are now outnumbered on the force.
Lyga, whose fatal shooting of an off-duty black cop in North Hollywood in 1997 was believed by some to be the Rampart Scandal's ultimate prehistory, said on tape that he “could have killed a whole truckload of them.”
The detective, who was subsequently pulled from the field as the LAPD investigates the comments, also mentioned during the talk that he had once encountered his victim, Officer Kevin Gaines, before the day he shot him, even though it was believed the two did not know either was a cop when they got into a road-rage confrontation that March day. Gaines was off-duty, and Lyga had been working undercover.
Investigators looking into the theft from an LAPD evidence room of a large quantity of cocaine zeroed in on key Rampart figure Rafael Perez, who was believed to have allegedly taken the drugs as retribution for the shooting of Gaines. The coke was booked into evidence by Lyga.
Perez ultimately did federal time for his role in the scandal.
[Update at 5:30 p.m.]: LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman says the chief had an unavoidable conflict in the form of a date with Mayor Eric Garcetti for the kickoff of his Summer Night Lights gang intervention program kickoff. He said the chief's office is trying reschedule with Cease Fire for July 2 or 9. Neiman adds:
… With respect to the assertion that the Chief canceled for fear he would face questions about Det. Lyga … not an issue. As you are aware the Chief has already stated that due to an ongoing personnel investigation regarding Det. Lyga that he is prohibited by State Law to discuss any issues related to that investigation. The Chief appears daily in public and with the media so he would certainly not avoid doing so for fear of being asked questions that he is not able to respond to at this time due to State Law and personnel complaints.