By Jon Katz and Rev. Jim Conn
Last week the Daily Press ran four letters to the editor about the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission (PSROC), the citizen board formed by the City Council in the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd in May of 2020 and the ensuing nationwide civil unrest. In the letters, residents accused the Police Officers Association (POA) of trying to minimize citizen review of the operations of our police department while the police union suggested certain PSROC members are unfit for the duty.
Causal readers might wonder what sort of circumstances might merit a citizen-driven investigation into the actions of the Santa Monica Police Department. How about a serious breach of national security by our women and men in blue?
Last week President Biden was greeted at the Santa Monica Airport by our Mayor Sue Himmelrich. The Secret Service vetted the Mayor the night beforehand with a deep background check and the now customary Covid test. Then the day of the event the President was flown in one of six military helicopters from LAX to our airport, with the other five serving as decoys. Snipers were deployed throughout our airport, local police were called in to assist with protecting the President, and the Secret Service deemed the perimeter secure.
But was it secure? Councilmember Lana Negrete had asked about joining the event, presumably for a photo op to boost her campaign to retain her seat and was repeatedly told she lacked the security clearance to do so, as the President’s safety is serious business.
Nonetheless, Councilmember Negrete found her way through the secure perimeter and onto the tarmac just prior to the President’s arrival. How was that possible? Santa Monica police officers smuggled her by the Secret Service, in a vehicle owned by the taxpayers of Santa Monica!
It’s no secret that the POA dotes on Councilmember Negrete and has bent campaign ethics to support her, including campaigning for her at our annual Fourth of July parade in breach of the rules against political activity at a publicly-financed event.
But sneaking her past Presidential security for a vanity photo op? That’s the sort of lapse of judgment by the SMPD and Councilmember Negrete which could lead to an investigation and a stain on the reputation of the SMPD and our city.
And that is why the SMPD must be held accountable to a PSROC that isn’t comprised solely of POA flunkies and apologists.
Jon Katz is President of the Santa Monica Democratic Club
Reverend Jim Conn is a Former Santa Monica Mayor
Photo by Nathan McDaniel