Culver City Resident: Letter to CCPD Chief Bixby

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Black Lives Matter Protest in Culver City
Black Lives Matter Protest in Culver City City Hall

Note: This letter was written in response to an email from Chief Bixby (cc: City Attorney).

Dear Chief Bixby,

I have been a Culver City resident for 18 years. I worked as a public school teacher for 17 years (LAUSD), and co-founded the Spanish Language Program at Lin Howe, where I volunteered for three years when my child attended school there. I served as a Member of the Culver City Finance Advisory Committee, Member of the Culver City Marijuana Task Force, and a Board Member of the Culver City Education Foundation. I currently run a real estate brokerage, but remain passionate about education, and criminal justice reform: Black Live Matter!

I understand that the number of complaints and the clearance rate for your police department is impressive, but is that the entire story?

To add perspective, let me speak about myself as a member of the disenfranchised, and how I’ve felt through numerous unpleasant police interactions during my 18 years living in Culver City.

Poverty has persisted in my family for generations. We do not complain. We just take it. We are good at that. We try to stay positive. We move on. We comply with the officers’ commands and survive the interaction in discomfort and silence, anxious to leave the scene and find refuge in the arms of those we love. We are happy to be alive, reticent of the fact that others have not been so lucky. 

I am not surprised that the number of complaints against the CCPD is low. I would be interested, however, to see how the number of complaints filed breaks down and correlates with Culver City’s population parsed out by racial demographics. I would expect that most complaints are filed by Whites and the recipients of those complaints are persons of color.

In the almost 20 years that I have lived in Culver City, I have seen hundreds of Black and Latino Individuals sitting on the curb somewhere on Washington and Culver Boulevard, with their hands behind their back for seemingly “routine” traffic stops.

Chief Bixby, may I ask, when was the last time you were asked to exit your vehicle, submit to a vehicle search, and then told to sit on the curb like a child for a “routine” traffic stop?

I believe that even a cursory look into your department’s data lake, a reportedly “200,000 contacts,” will reveal a reality that has been repeated and discussed throughout this city for as long as I can remember. Culver City is and has been notorious for “Driving while Black.” You may find it hard to accept this truth. It may not sit well with your perceived vision of your department, but it needs to be addressed.

Although I can understand why you’d be offended by my assertion, what I do not understand is how you can pretend there are no issues with racism or police profiling in your department.

You are sitting on the data. You are in a position of authority and leadership in our community – charged with seeking out the facts – but you have simply refused to act.

What is the percentage of arrests made of African Americans or Latinos in our community? How does that correlate to our city’s population, once again, parsed out by ethnic group? I look forward to seeing these statistics published.

If you really want to understand the pain people are feeling right now, you will have to try, at a minimum, to understand the sometimes daily and constant forms of humiliation which people of color are subjected to in this country, and yes, in Culver City. Humiliation rooted in centuries of institutional racism.

You may have to show you are willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. At a recent #BlackLivesMatter protest you prematurely left the stage and may have heard someone in the crowd yelling, “Why are you walking away?!”

Yes. That was me.

I was somewhat embarrassed by my outburst. It seemed to frighten those around me. But honestly, I was shocked that the highest-paid civic leader in our community could not take a little heat from a group of peaceful, concerned citizens.

You failed to look for common ground. You failed at an attempt to understand or engage. You simply left. This is unacceptable.

You have only to look at the excellent examples of civic leadership in other cities during this time of national crisis. I am equally disappointed at the City Council for its astounding and collective silence.

I will admit that I am not completely up to speed on the details of the “Chief’s Advisory Panel” and how it was recently formed, but it sounds like you had the final say as to who is admitted.

As an added or alternative solution, I would like to see a Citizens Police Review Board established in Culver City. A real review board comprised of Culver City residents who are not elected officials. One that has investigative powers to interview, subpoena, and finally, to discipline. One that does not exist because of the benevolence of those, such as yourself, who hold power in our community, but because it is an essential step towards earning the public’s trust.

The name of your current Panel, the”Chief’s Advisory Panel,” suggests it may be doomed from the onset. The point of a citizens’ police review board is independence from law enforcement. Not simply to make recommendations to the Chief of Police at the end of an investigation, giving him or her sole discretion to act, but a panel that has the independent authority to enforce its recommendations.

The institutions of law enforcement have never been good at policing itself. Although you may want to hold up your personal track record of excellence as a reason that something like this is not necessary for Culver City, you have to remember that what needs to change – with your help – is the institution of policing, irrespective of your continued success or future accomplishments.

We know that institutions such as the Catholic Church, prisons, and school districts have all struggled with reform, but when that reform arrives, it is never from the top down. Change comes from the bottom up.

Best regards,

JL Casarez

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