The Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee presented their report to El Segundo City Council last Tuesday (2/1), regarding their analysis of the El Segundo Police and Fire Departments. There was a slide presentation
that included some of the methodology and statistics regarding personnel, hiring policies, UoF (use of force), arrests, sensitivity training, etc.
In this message, we focus on how the DEI’s presentation to the City reported on the police department. It’s not that we aren’t concerned by the alarming lack of diversity within the fire department at large
which the Committee made clear, but we feel the El Segundo community has been more directly and negatively impacted by the police department
, so we’re advocating for improvements there more strenuously.
While we are grateful for the time and energy the DEI committee puts into their work, we are extremely disappointed with their presentation last week. We could start by quibbling over the statistics, and especially hone in on the fact that much of the data included in the review of ESPD was provided by the department itself. ESPD not only controlled what numbers were provided, but also the context–or lack thereof–that was included in those numbers.
We find the idea that ESPD played a leading role–in what was supposed to be an objective review of the department–troublesome, and we question why resources were not provided for an external review of the department, but we’ll dig into that later. Right now, we want to focus on the far more problematic component to the DEI’s presentation: the blatant omission of community feedback.
El Segundo’s reputation as a community that unfairly polices minorities is rooted in a racist legacy that dates back to the City’s founding. Unfortunately, despite years of progress, recent incidents suggest that this reputation still suits our city. It is, therefore, totally inexcusable and unacceptable that the DEI committee did not include the stories from the very community they were appointed to serve. Over the last two years, BlPOC residents, students, employees, visitors, and commuters have courageously shared gut wrenching stories of mistreatment by ESPD.
We can’t quite figure out why a committee that was installed exactly 16 months ago failed to incorporate community feedback as part of its very first public safety report to the City Council. If the presentation had to be boiled down to one element, and one element only, community feedback would be that one.
To his credit, DEI Committee Chairperson Avery Smith, who presented on behalf of the Committee, acknowledged the importance of community feedback and the fact it was absent from their report, adding that the Committee planned to include it in the future. But not involving the public after nearly a year and a half of work is more than an unfortunate omission, it completely undermines the credibility of the presentation. Without community feedback, the presentation ultimately amounted to a big pat on the back for the police department. Is that “atta boy” deserved? We don’t know.
But we do know from public comments
made earlier that same evening at the same City Council meeting that there is an active civil rights lawsuit against the City of El Segundo and its police department.
In scathing detail, an attorney representing the plaintiff in the case walked the public through an outrageous instance of racial profiling, unlawful arrest, and false imprisonment
that his client–a Black woman–experienced at the hands of ESPD after shopping here in town.
Should the plaintiff win, we residents will be left paying the bill
. This civil rights case just further underscores our point that if we don’t take an honest look at our police department and make sure its practices and policies are in line with a fair and equitable society, there will be more (and potentially graver) consequences.
The DEI Committee was seemingly unaware of this incident. A committee who has consistently praised the transparency of ESPD should be appalled that the department neglected to share such consequential information with them
. A dumbfounded Mayor Boyles admitted that even he was unaware of the active lawsuit. The Council had no further comment regarding this harrowing account of racial profiling.
They did, however, have a lot to say about the DEI’s report.
, who last May relentlessly grilled
DEI Committee Member Shad McFadden, then chairperson, over the Committee's goal to “atone for inequities and disparities'' in the community, calling atone a “trigger word,” spent his time this meeting questioning the Committee’s proposal to further evaluate ESPD
. Giroux took specific issue regarding the Committee’s interest in investigating the glaring use of force disparity on people of color when compared to white people, and sought to dismiss the concern as just a “very small fraction”
of all arrests. Giroux added that he was concerned about what the optics may look like
if it were perceived that the Committee was trying to find a problem with ESPD.
appreciated all their hard work but admonished the Committee for including analysis and interpretation in their own report.
Nicol argued that the Committee should just let the data speak for itself. Yes, the same data provided by ESPD. But this is the same City Council member who once suggested police officers be issued flashcards of Black residents in El Segundo, so they can know for sure which Black people “belong” and which don’t
—that way they wouldn’t mistakenly harass a Black person who actually lived in town... Councilmember Nicol is up for reelection in the fall.
Also up for reelection is Mayor Pro Tem Pimentel
, who at one City Council meeting last year proposed
ESPD go full-on police state and install “street blockade[s]” or “checkpoint[s]” to surveil residents and visitors
for possible theft and other crimes as they travel about town. Pimentel had little to say in regards to the DEI’s review of ESPD, but his silence spoke volumes.
, whose family was implicated in a scandal removing pro-BLM flyers on Main Street back in 2020 said she looks forward to feedback from the community, and endorsed the DEI’s idea for future town hall meetings. Pirsztuk says she thinks ESPD's image will look even better as a result. We know you’ve listened to the stories from the community. But has Councilmember Pirsztuk?
Mayor Boyles reflected back on the time he attended a social justice demonstration in June of 2020 when he was asked about former President Obama’s Remaining Policing Pledge
which called on mayors and local officials “to review and reform use of force policies, redefine public safety, and combat systemic racism within law enforcement.” Then while completely ignoring the disparity in use of force when applied to people of color
that Chairperson Smith highlighted in the report, Boyles commended ESPD for what he considered to be relatively insignificant use of force numbers overall.
Again while we are disheartened with the DEI’s decision to deliver such an important presentation without including the most important element–community feedback–we cannot lay all the blame at their feet. We understand they are limited in what they can do and how they can do it.
We know the City Council has slowed their work. We know there are members of their own committee who are only interested in undermining their work. Plus we know that Council hasn't even bothered to replace the two Committee members who resigned last summer.
The DEI Committee, however, is uniquely positioned to make a difference in our City, and many people have been waiting for that. We implore the DEI Committee to keep pushing and be very careful not to allow themselves to become empty functionaries for a City Council that is more concerned with maintaining the status quo and creating the appearance that "everything’s just fine.”
We don’t want to be negative. We don’t want to look for something that isn’t there. We just want the truth. We want underrepresented voices to be heard. And we want a police department that works for and serves us all. From what we are seeing, from what the community is telling us that’s not yet the case. We have more work to do, and we cannot let up now.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee will meet on Wednesday (tomorrow), February 9, at 4:30pm via Zoom
. In one of the first orders of business, the Committee will recap and discuss last week’s Public Safety Report to Council
. You can view the full agenda here
Members of the Public may also provide comments electronically by sending an email to the following address, with a limit of 150 words and accepted up until 30 minutes prior to the meeting: email@example.com
Show your support for positive change in our community by attending. Let the DEI Committee know that we are here, and we are counting on them to get the job done.
As always thank you for your continued support and for putting in the work with us!
In solidarity,SEA Change