Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he wants to expand the police force during the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), aside from other measures regarding combating the virus, such as closing entertainment venues, as well as gyms, restaurants, and bars. Although Garcetti has not ordered a curfew just yet, the stronger police force is supposed to make the streets safer for everyone.
Opponents, on the other hand, argue that this will affect the African-American and Latinx community more than White Americans.
According to the LA Times, the LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced during a news conference to have more deputies at shopping centers, big-box stores, and supermarkets as precaution “in case there’s any sort of conflict,” he said.
Cases of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detaining immigrants happened as soon as Gov. Gavin Newsom and Garcetti announced their drastic measures to help combat the current public health crisis caused by COVID-19.
“Our communities need elected and public officials to respond to COVID-19 as a public health crisis, not with more police,” according to a statement from the nonprofit organization PUSH-LA. “We are deeply concerned that the expansion of the daily patrol force in potential lieu of the expansion of public health resources in communities of color will only exacerbate the racial profiling, targeting, and violence visited upon Black and Brown people, with detainment and arrests potentially increasing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
“We are already hearing stories of heavy police presence and harassment inside grocery stores. Despicably, ICE agents were out arresting people yesterday, the day after the Governor and Mayor ordered people to increase social distancing measures and take every precaution to protect loved ones. To achieve true public safety in these uncertain times, it’s critical that additional public health resources to medical clinics and first responders are prioritized, not the expansion of the patrol force.
“Historically, the City’s public policy response to the health crises in communities of color–most infamously during the crack cocaine epidemic–has resulted in the unjust criminalization of our community with irreparable, enduring, and widespread harm. This is an unprecedented public health crisis and that same policy response simply won’t suffice if the City’s true goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities of color. We have an opportunity to do things differently and are calling on our City’s leadership to move quickly to invest in the public health of Black and Brown people rather than continuing the path of criminalization and repression that serves no one.”
This statement was signed by 15 organizations supporting PUSH LA, including Community Coalition.
On March 17, ICE was in Bell Gardens to detain alleged illegal aliens, protected with face masks and hand sanitizers, as reported by the LA Times. Over 45 organizations signed a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to put a hold on detaining people. ICE responded to take extra measures of caution, but they won’t stop arrests.
“We’re out here trying to protect the public by getting these criminal aliens off the street and out of our communities,” the director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for ICE in LA, David Marin told the LA Times. “Asking us to stop doing that basically gives those criminals another opportunity to maybe commit more crimes, to create more victims.”
According to a press statement released on March 18, the Department of Homeland Security announced “it would only target individuals who present public safety risks or who have criminal records.” For all other undocumented people, ICE “will exercise discretion to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention, as appropriate,” as a response to public health and safety concerns amid the outbreak of COVID-19.
During a recent teleconference with Congresswoman Karen Bass, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson mentioned that
“We believe that the presence of police on the streets will have everybody behave a little bit better.”
However, no further comment was made by Councilmember Harris-Dawson upon request by Our Weekly.