GUEST COMMENTARY - As a lifelong musician who grew up near the San Fernando Valley, I fancied myself as somewhat of a punk rocker.
Naturally, my friends and I were not fans of the police. We likened law enforcement to “stormtroopers,” unknowingly stripping away their humanity, thus making it easier to justify whatever malfeasance our narcissistic youthful enthusiasm demanded. They were all the same to us. We wanted to do what we wanted to do, and the police tried to stop us.
Today, as a man in my late 50s, I am a veteran touring musician and music producer who calls the San Fernando Valley home. My friends and I are adults now with families, mortgages and a deeper understanding of why we need law enforcement - to protect communities, hold individuals accountable, and ensure justice is done. As James Madison wrote, “The safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”
A good police department ensures that the nuts and bolts of this machine we call “civilization” do not vibrate loose from the constant pounding of bad actors working to bring it crashing down. A former LAPD Police Chief once observed, “Policing is oftentimes not pretty.” He was right, and in turn, we must demand that the police department is populated with officers performing the job with integrity, competence and good intentions while accepting that the nature of the job will involve occasional and inevitable unintended consequences.
The core values of the LAPD state that they “...are intended to guide and inspire us in all we say and do. Making sure that our values become part of our day-to-day work life is our mandate, and they help to ensure that our personal and professional behavior can be a model for all to follow.” Sadly, the LAPD seems to have tossed aside its core values and retaliated against a beloved Police Captain.
Captain Johnny Smith (L. Photo above), a 30-year veteran of the LAPD and local lifelong resident, embodies the Department’s motto “To Protect and to Serve.” I have come to know Captain Smith over the past three years and have found him to be a kind and dedicated public servant ideally suited for the job. He truly understands what it means to work in partnership with the community. Captain Smith is loved by residents, business leaders and his officers. Imagine the community’s shock when the LAPD leadership suddenly removed him as the Captain at the Foothill Station and demoted him two ranks.
What horrible crime did he commit to deserve this? Did he fail to do his duty or abuse his power and authority? Alas, Captain Smith was found guilty of speaking the truth to powerful City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez (R. Photo above). And just like that, the beloved crown jewel of Foothill public safety, whose personal and professional behavior was a model for all to follow, was plucked from our midst.
With no warning to the public or supportive evidence, an LAPD Captain of police was removed by Chief Moore apparently at the request of the city councilwoman who is currently being sued by another officer whom she allegedly removed in the same manner. Both officers demonstrated integrity, honest and bravery by refusing to break the law and overlook blatant corruption.
The law suit states:
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES
Retaliation in Violation of Labor Code 1102.5
Translation, both officers spoke truth to power and it cost them their positions.
It appears that doing so in Los Angeles is now a prerequisite to immediate removal and replacement by the LAPD leadership. This is a dangerous path that if traveled far enough, will yield no return. Replacing and punishing honest police officers who dare to stand up for their beliefs and do what is right only breeds more mistrust in law enforcement.
It is time now, as responsible residents, to exercise our right and duty to unite against political corruption. We must ALL send the message that public office in Los Angeles is no longer a place for carnival barkers, charlatans and self-serving, ladder-climbing narcissists who only see the community as a necessary inconvenience. We must not let the LAPD leadership ignore their stated values and, in doing so, disrespect the community to further the careers and line the pockets of elected officials.
Plato suggested that a good and moral person is the foundation for a successful society. I would add, trust is hard fought and easily lost. Let’s fight harder... together, shall we?
(Mark Dutton is running in a special election to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees to represent Seat No. 7 in California. Dutton is on the ballot in the special general election on November 8, 2022.)