The law enforcement profession had many challenges to contend with in 2023, including the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis, increases in crime, surging violence against officers, continuing public scrutiny, counterproductive reform efforts and more. But through it all, LAAPOA remained dedicated to speaking out for public safety and safeguarding the rights, benefits and well-being of our membership, and we achieved a number of major victories on behalf of LAXPD and Los Angeles Municipal Police officers and Los Angeles park rangers. Here’s a look back at some of the key issues and accomplishments we focused on in the past year, along with a preview of what we’ll be working on in 2024.
Fighting for What’s Right
In February, LAAPOA and law enforcement organizations around the country came together to condemn the actions of five Memphis police officers who were being held responsible for the brutal beating and death of 29-year-old Black motorist Tyre Nichols. We pointed out that the horrific incident highlighted the concerning issue of law enforcement agencies relaxing their hiring standards in an attempt to fill depleted ranks. LAAPOA and our statewide partners at PORAC called for the profession to improve its standards in all areas, including robust training, hiring and recruitment practices along with national standards on the use of force and duty to intervene.
In March, LAAPOA joined with many local residents in opposing the removal of the fence surrounding Echo Park Lake, which had been erected to curb the rampant open-air drug use, violence, and reported prostitution and trafficking that was taking place at the park. LAAPOA called out Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez for rushing to make empty gestures to fulfill his campaign promise without a clear plan to ensure the security of the park and the surrounding neighborhood.
A month later, LAAPOA honored the service and sacrifice of LAXPD Officer Tommy Scott, who was killed in the line of duty on April 29, 2005, while heroically protecting the aviation community from a man intent on crashing a vehicle into an airplane on the LAX runway. In June, we were proud to announce that the Officer Tommy Scott Memorial freeway signs were installed on the north and southbound portions of Interstate 405 near LAX, which was made possible through the 2022 passage of the Officer Tommy Scott Memorial Highway Bill (SCR-39), introduced by California State Senator Ben Allen in 2021 and supported by LAAPOA.
LAAPOA also memorialized California’s other fallen officers who were honored at the state ceremony in Sacramento in May, as well as offering a Memorial Day message saluting the brave members of our military throughout history who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
Standing With Members
LAX’s $15 billion airport expansion program has continued to move forward uninterrupted, with the number of highly paid executive/management roles at LAX booming and CEO and CFO salaries exponentially increasing — all while LAXPD staffing is at a 15-year low, with no signs of the exodus stopping. In May and June, LAAPOA spoke out about how, even as most municipalities have reversed course on the “defund the police” trend, LAX executives are nickel-and-diming public safety while passenger levels rebound to record highs, the costliest management ranks expand and the airport prepares for the Olympics and other high-profile events.
In June, LAAPOA was pleased to see three years of hard work come to fruition with the announcement that City Ordinance No. 187923 was unanimously adopted by the Los Angeles City Council and concurred by Mayor Karen Bass. This measure enhances the disability retirement, death and survivorship benefits for sworn peace officers who are public safety officer members of the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS) Tiers 1 and 3, many of whom are represented by LAAPOA in MOUs #28, #30 and #65. This was a triumph for LAAPOA and all the peace officers in the City of Los Angeles who were not previously covered by the same disability benefits as other officers. At the same time, LAAPOA was also proud to announce that the Los Angeles Airport Police Supervisors Association (LAAPSA), which represents the sergeants and lieutenants of the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, voted to affiliate with and designate LAAPOA as its official bargaining unit as of July 1.
In August, LAAPOA congratulated Mayor Bass for striking a deal on a four-year contract with the LAPD officers of the L.A. Police Protective League that will raise starting salaries and benefits and provide incentives to stem the mass exodus of officers the city has experienced in recent years. We urged the mayor to direct Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) to wisely use its non-general fund and non-taxpayer, proprietary funds to finish what her predecessor started and bring parity between LAXPD and LAPD officers. In September, LAAPOA achieved a massive victory by resoundingly ratifying a successor labor contract on behalf of its law enforcement members that will ultimately provide equitable salary and benefits to its public safety officers. This is a landmark contract for LAAPOA’s majority–minority police force membership, which has historically been underpaid and undervalued.
A significant legal battle that began in 2018 came to an end in 2023 as well, resulting in four LAXPD officers winning a major class-action adverse employment action case against Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the City of Los Angeles and former LAXPD Chief David Maggard Jr. Kevin May v. City of Los Angeles stemmed from officer allegations that they received “a slew of adverse employment actions” from their supervisors — including promotion denials — after their treating physicians recommended that the injured officers wear police-issued load-bearing vests while on duty. The case serves as an important reminder about why it’s crucial for labor unions to meet with management about everything that revolves around changes to hours, wages and working conditions.
LAAPOA also rallied behind two LAXPD officers who suffered devastating blows. Through PORAC’s Fund a Hero campaign, LAAPOA helped fundraise for Officer Teresa Arizaga, who sustained and survived a traumatic brain injury that has damaged her overall health and her life’s trajectory. We also helped raise money for the family of Officer Geramie Eleazar, who is recovering from stage 3 colon cancer.
Promoting a Diverse and Inspired Workforce
Episode 6 of The Layover With LAAPOA video podcast featured Simi Valley Police Chief Charles “Steve” Shorts, a 33-year law enforcement veteran who began his career with the L.A. City Park Rangers. LAAPOA President Marshall McClain’s interview with Shorts, who became the first Black person and the first member of a minority group to lead the Simi Valley Police Department, included Shorts’ thoughts on current criminal justice reforms and policies, his future goals as chief and much more.
In October, LAAPOA held its third annual Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Conference, bringing together public safety professionals from around the state to network and hear from accomplished female leaders in the fields of law enforcement, finance, and mental health and wellness. With the theme “Lift As We Climb Up,” the daylong event was all about motivating, inspiring and training attendees to confidently advocate for themselves and others in their careers, particularly as they progress into leadership roles. The conference demonstrates LAAPOA’s continued commitment to improving and supporting our members in all aspects of their career development.
Educating on the Issues
Throughout 2023, LAAPOA provided expert interpretation of the legal issues impacting our members from our general counsel, Mastagni Holstedt, APC. In addition to an update on the POST Commission’s implementation of a licensing and decertification process for law enforcement officers, we highlighted the following developments:
- A federal ruling blocked California’s fee-shifting law against plaintiffs bringing Second Amendment challenges, removing a significant impediment for law enforcement organizations to challenge threatened legislation.
- The National Labor Relations Board expanded the available remedies for unfair labor practices based on discrimination or retaliation.
- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals provided important guidance on what type of speech is protected under the First Amendment and how employers can implement social media policies that are in compliance with the First Amendment.
- A Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) decision made clear an employer’s obligation to bargain over proposed changes to overtime sign-up and payment policies.
- A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in Boland v. Bonta barring enforcement of the deceptively titled “California’s Unsafe Handgun Act,” citing PORAC President Brian Marvel’s declaration that the substantial majority of California’s law enforcement officers use off-roster handguns in the line of duty.
- The Ninth Circuit tossed out a previous ruling that denied qualified immunity in an officer-involved shooting case.
- PORAC and other law enforcement groups filed an amicus brief in Boland v. Bonta supporting the district’s court injunction against the requirements of the Unsafe Handgun Act, which actually bars members of the public from obtaining newer, improved and safer generations of handguns.
- David E. Mastagni testified before the Assembly Public Safety Committee to oppose SB 519, which would grant a newly created “local detention monitor” to impair labor contracts and interrogate local peace officers regarding in-custody deaths without regard to their rights against self-incrimination.
- The Ninth Circuit vindicated the objectionably reasonable standard in analyzing lawsuits involving the use of deadly force by peace officers, ruling that deadly force was reasonable to stop a suspect pointing a replica gun at officers.
Additionally, LAAPOA shared PORAC’s release of a comparative analysis by a leading racial profiling expert that found inconsistencies in the California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory (RIPA) Board’s 2022 and 2023 Annual Reports. PORAC concluded that the significant flaws in the RIPA Board’s approach mislead Californians to believe that racial profiling is more pervasive than the data suggests.
Promoting Wellness and Safety
In January, we made it a priority to update members on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s preliminary data from its 2022 fatality report, which showed a troubling trend of higher-than-average firearms-related line-of-duty deaths, proving that our profession is as dangerous as ever. We revisited this topic near the end of the year after the murder of L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, yet another senseless killing of a law enforcement officer in an ambush-style attack. Unfortunately, the number of officers shot and killed continued to grow throughout 2023, and we urged our members and law enforcement family to remain vigilant as we vowed to persist in advocating for their safety.
In recognition of National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month and National PTSD Awareness Day on June 27, LAAPOA shed light on PTSD, noting that public safety officers have a 25.6 times higher risk of developing PTSD or other similar mental health conditions than those in other professions. We celebrated Labor Day with an important reminder that the wages, benefits and legal protections we take for granted didn’t always exist, but had to be fought for and protected through decades of collective action. And we marked Thanksgiving with an expression of gratitude for our members and fellow law enforcement officers, along with travel safety tips to help our families and communities enjoy a secure and peaceful holiday.
LAAPOA closed out 2023 with an article about District Attorney George Gascón’s promotion of Tiffiny Blacknell, a notorious pro-looting, anti-law-enforcement former public defender, to his chief of staff on December 15. This was just the latest in a series of moves raising serious concerns about Gascón’s commitment to public safety and his effectiveness in addressing the rising crime wave in our communities. With 2024 being an election year, public policy issues like these will remain a major focus for LAAPOA as we assess the actions of our government leaders and their views on the topics that affect law enforcement.
“We urge everyone to stay educated and engaged throughout the coming year, as we go through an election process that could have major repercussions for our profession and our communities,” President Marshall McClain says. “LAAPOA will do our part by carefully vetting the candidates, endorsing those who we believe will most strongly support public safety, and continuing to keep our members and the public informed about the complex and vital issues surrounding law enforcement in 2024. However, we need our supporters to pay attention and be sure to get out the vote. Remember that every race, whether at the local, state or national level, no matter how small or seemingly remote from our daily lives, has the potential to make a powerful impact on our careers and our communities.”
Another priority for LAAPOA will be expanding its reach. “We are looking into growing our representation of other L.A. City public safety groups who have reached out and would like to be a part of the LAAPOA family,” McClain says. “Not only can we offer excellent representation and benefits for these potential new members, but increasing our ranks will further strengthen our voice and our resources as we continue to advocate for the safety, compensation, working conditions and rights of our members and law enforcement as a whole.”