On August 13th, the Culver City Police Officers’ Association (CCPOA) shared a video on their Facebook social media page condemning The Culver City Action Network (CCAN), a local progressive advocacy group.
In the social media post and video CCPOA asks: “Who is the Culver City Action Network? Why do they continuously put out false narratives about the Culver City Police Department? Why would no one admit to being a part of this secretive group? Are they hiding something?”
“No, we haven’t yet sunk into a dystopian universe where local advocates are repressed by authoritarians,” observed Culver City resident James Province, “At least, not yet.”
In their video, CCPOA blasts CCAN’s role in recent “Defund the Police” campaigns, and accuses them of sharing “false and misleading information regarding a [Culver City] officer-involved shooting,” the case of Officer Luis Martinez who, in 2010, shot and killed Lejoy Grissom, an African-American man.
Though Martinez was cleared of wrongdoing in a third-party investigation––conducted by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department––CCPD lost a wrongful death civil lawsuit with a unanimous jury awarding $8.8 million to Grissom’s surviving children.
Culver City Councilmember Daniel Lee told the Catalyst, “The attempt by the Culver City Police Officers’ Association to paint the Culver City Action Network or CCAN as a secret and shadowy organization is offensive and irresponsible.”
“This is an attempt to silence loud and informed voices with which the CCPOA disagrees.”Councilmember Daniel Lee
Lee continues, “The members of CCAN have met in person with the current Acting Chief Manny Cid and Chief Scott Bixby, as well as other officers and command-staff on many occasions. In none of these cases were they obscuring their identities or using false names. At city council meetings across a wide variety of issues, CCAN members have given public comment identifying themselves by name and their organizational affiliation on a regular basis. This is an attempt to silence loud and informed voices with which the CCPOA disagrees. Doing so by creating a false sense of secrecy and sowing distrust is irresponsible and below the standard of decency that should be expected.”
And CCPOA clearly wants to spread its narrative. In the post, they tag the Culver City Local Government page as well as media outlets including KFI AM, the LA Times, and the LA Daily News and more.
CCAN has denounced Martinez’s appointment to Culver City’s Equity and Human Relations Advisory Committee, writing: “This appointment is a deliberate finger-in-the-eye as thousands in Culver City are marching to #DefendBlackLives in the wake of police murders of George Floyd and so many others.”
CCAN continues, “It is an affront that Martinez, of all CCPD officers and all City employees, is now appointed to a committee charged with “promot[ing] positive human relations and equitable outcomes and opportunities in all aspects of community life.”
CCPOA’s video pivots to attack Culver City resident John Kent for, as CCPOA states, “spreading misleading and false information about CCPD,” and calls him out, as it displays his personal Facebook profile photo.
In a Letter to the Editor, Kent responds, “I find it ironic that a group of police officers, supposedly astute observers, and investigators, don’t even know I’m not a member of CCAN. Nor can they identify any of those who have publicly on numerous occasions spoken for CCAN.”
Kent continues, “The CCPOA is angry that I have published articles in the Catalyst and LAStreetsblog exposing the CCPD’s long and inglorious history of racism; KKK membership and recruitment; racial profiling, and even murder of people of color.”
The video also shares a Tweet by School Board Member Dr. Kelly Kent (John Kent’s daughter), displaying the hashtag “#SolidaritywithPortland” along with pictures of Los Angeles protests, as it edits in footage of violent rioters and looters in Portland and Santa Monica, asking “Do we want this in our community?”
However there is no indication in Dr. Kent’s Tweet, nor in any of her numerous public social media posts, that she either supports or condones violent rioting and looting.
“The very civil servants charged with my safety are on the contrary intentionally exposing me to harm and performing acts of libelous slander,” Kent said in reply to CCPOA’s post, and added, “In addition to being profoundly personally disturbed, I also find in this video validation of the questions posed by activists on behalf of black lives about what exactly our taxpayer dollars are funding.”
In support of both Kents, Councilmember Lee said, “The targeting of a specific family with whom the organization disagrees is reprehensible,” he continued, “though they are within their rights to use such questionable means it is below the standard of character expected of officers within Culver City.”
Lee’s sentiments echo a number of CC residents who are unnerved and even “scared” by CCPOA’s unexpected attempt to intervene in local politics. The social media post has generated 33 shares and over 200 comments (and counting) of passionate debate ranging from unequivocal support of CCPOA to utter outrage. The following are a snapshot of comments:
Vice Mayor Alex Fisch, whose comment is quoted above, added, “That social media post was profoundly disappointing. It was ineffective. It revealed a total failure to understand what activists are saying.”
Fisch continued, “It was harmful to our community. It betrays the fundamental notion of what unions should do. Worst of all, it is dangerous in that the only people with the power to use force in Culver City targeted private citizens by name.”
Councilmember Thomas Small, who recently announced he will not seek a second term, also shared a statement, “I am disheartened by the offensive discourse on social media; it is counter-productive and even harmful. The city, the police department, and expert consultants are currently engaged in an official task force to reimagine public safety, police services, and our CCPD budget through a collaborative process and open forum.”
Small continued, “This effort, being led by CCPD Acting Police Chief Manny Cid and the City Manager’s office, is a much more productive approach to examining these issues than barbing on social media. We remind and invite all interested parties to attend the upcoming meetings.”
The next meeting begins at 6 PM Thursday, Aug. 20, and will feature presentations from Acting Chief Cid, Mayor Eriksson, and Kelly Lytle-Hernandez, the Director of UCLA’s Bunche Center for African-American Studies. Dr. Lytle-Hernandez is also the author of two distinguished books, and a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.
In a show of unity among the progressive members of the City Council, Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells issued a statement condemning the move by CCPOA, “I’m profoundly troubled by the CCPOA’s video targeting a grassroots community group, a concerned resident who has done research on Culver City’s history, and his daughter, who is an elected official, a neighbor and a friend. It’s inappropriate, and unhelpful both for our city and for our police department itself.”
Councilmember Sahli-Wells continues, “Rather than joining in the deep conversation our community –– and our entire country –– is having regarding police violence and racial justice, they have chosen instead to further undermine public trust. To chose this moment in our country’s history to go on the offensive regarding the death of a black man, shows a shocking disregard for those who have lost their lives, those who have experienced, and those who fear police violence. This action is the polar opposite of the community trust-building we so desperately need at this moment. In terms of the city’s actions, I welcome robust community input in our process of reviewing public safety, and re-imagining community resources to better serve all of our constituents. Please sign up and participate in this process: https://www.culvercity.org/live/public-safety/public-safety-review.”
Requests for comment have been submitted to Culver City Police Officers’ Association, Culver City Action Network, Mayor Göran Eriksson, and the Culver City City Attorney. Culver City Catalyst will continue to update this article if/when statements are provided. This article was updated to include a statement from Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells.