Black Lives Matter is protesting Jackie Lacey, LA County’s first Black district attorney, because of her refusal to prosecute law enforcement officers who have killed more than 600 Angelenos since she took office in 2012.
Signs reading “Bye Jackie!” and “Prosecute Killer Cops” are visible at the weekly protests in front of Lacey’s office, house and City Hall.
Black Lives Matter LA has been mobilizing against Lacey for around two and a half years, but since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the worldwide protests that followed, the number of protesters has swelled to thousands. A recent study from Pew Research found that two-thirds of U.S. adults say they support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA, criticized Lacey’s refusal to prosecute violent officers in an interview with LA Downtown News.
She quoted 20th century African American writer Zora Neale Hurston, saying, “All skin folk ain’t kinfolk,” when speaking about Lacey.
“We view Jackie Lacey as absolutely a Black face on white supremacy,” Abdullah said.
Black Lives Matter leaders have spoken with Lacey, Abdullah said, but the conversations failed to bring forth the justice they are seeking. In early March, Lacey’s husband pointed a gun at Abdullah’s chest after she went to their door to have a community meeting because Lacey failed to schedule a promised meeting with the leaders.
In a press conference, Lacey apologized, saying her husband, who is a former investigative auditor at the district attorney’s office, was afraid because she was receiving death threats.
Lacey said she feels unfairly targeted by the protests against her. In an interview with the Associated Press, she said, “I don’t want people thinking I’m biased or racist or afraid, or any of these very unflattering things that are said.”
“We shouldn’t assume that everyone who says, ‘Black lives matter’ isn’t concerned also about public safety,” Lacey said. “That’s a false choice that those are mutually exclusive.”
Abdullah said most Black people voted for Lacey with high hopes that a Black woman in power would represent the community more authentically than previous district attorneys. That didn’t pan out, Abdullah said.
When Lacey chooses not to prosecute cops who kill Black people, “The message is that police can do whatever they want without being held accountable,” Abdullah said. “They can kill people with impunity, and the police know that.”
Albert Ramon Dorsey, Grechario Mack, Wakiesha Wilson and Brendon Glenn are just some of the names of Black lives who were killed at the hands of law enforcement, whose families never received justice, as outlined on Black Lives Matter LA’s “Jackie Must Go” page.
“The message becomes to police that they can do whatever they want, and I think it actually plays a role in spurring police killings,” she said. “They don’t need to restrain themselves.”
In LA County, the number of killings of people at the hands of police on Lacey’s watch is up to 609, Abdullah said, mentioning that the number doesn’t include the lives lost in June.
The “veil of liberalism” that LA prides itself on makes many think that the city and the whole state of California are immune to racism, Abdullah said. While Californians like to believe their state is the model for progressive values, many of those who hold positions of power still continue to perpetuate the systemic racism the country was built on, and Lacey is no exception, she added.
“Institutional racism can use people of any race to enact racist policies and engage in racist practices,” Abdullah said.
Lacey refuses to bring justice to these families because she is funded by law enforcement unions like the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Abdullah said.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League is a law enforcement union and lobbying arm that represents LAPD officers and has a reputation for supporting what is considered for some as right wing “law and order” policies.
“They of course don’t want their members prosecuted,” Abdullah said. “If she’s being funded by them it’s very difficult for her to separate herself from them.”
The Black Lives Matter LA Facebook page described the Los Angeles Police Protective League as a “gang,” saying, “It buys off politicians, intimidates critics and covers up the crimes of its members.”
In June, a group of high-level prosecutors publicly called for the California State Bar to forbid district attorneys from receiving campaign donations from law enforcement unions, saying it creates bias and is a conflict of interest in the ways district attorneys prosecute and investigate officers.
Since the protests began, multiple government leaders have withdrawn their endorsements for Lacey or hinted that they are no longer in support.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said it may be time for a change in the district attorney’s office on June 12 in an interview with the Appeal, a criminal justice publication.
Congressman Adam Schiff and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman withdrew their endorsements for Lacey.
A tweet from Schiff on June 20 said, “This is a rare time in our nation’s history. We have a responsibility to make profound changes to end systemic racism & reform criminal justice.”
In response, Lacey issued a statement defending her actions while serving as district attorney.
“As the first African American woman to hold the LA County D.A.’s office, I am proud of my record of taking on systemic racism and reforming criminal justice—from bail reform to reducing juvenile cases by nearly 50%, to increasing our office’s focus on mental health treatment instead of incarceration,” she said.
George Gascón, a former San Francisco district attorney, is running against Lacey for her third term and is endorsed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. His campaign is centered around being more progressive in his approach to law enforcement and public safety.
Some have asked Abdullah if it’s too late for Lacey to reconcile with the Black Lives Matter leaders and the community they represent. It’s never too late to change, Abdullah said, but her actions must speak louder than words.
“Jackie Lacey has abused the Black community, and before we try to bring her back into the community, she needs to make amends, and that means prosecuting police,” Abdullah said.