Since Keenan Anderson’s police-involved death, his family and members of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Grassroots have coalesced around six demands, including the removal of Michel Moore as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the resignation of Los Angeles Councilmember Kevin DeLeon, whose racist comments last year incited fury among Black constituents.
Another demand of note, as explained by BLM Grassroots leadership on Wednesday, Jan. 25, centered on the city of Los Angeles dispatching civilian Department of Transportation personnel, and not police officers, to conduct traffic stops.
“We want to pull police officers out of traffic stops and other places they don’t belong, like housing, schools and parks,” said Megan Castillo, a BLM Grassroots member who organizes in Los Angeles.
“Black people are more likely to be stopped, searched and arrested. We incur greater fines which result from these traffic stops,” Castillo continued. “Disparities can lead to tragedy. We need civilian first responders dedicated to traffic and road safety, and equipped to serve our communities unarmed.”
Castillo also called for the abolition of qualified immunity, the discontinuation of police tasers, the release of unedited police body camera footage from Anderson’s encounter with LAPD, and the identification, firing and eventual prosecution of police officers involved in Anderson’s death.
Moore, who will soon wrap up his first term as chief of the LAPD, has been criticized as the conductor of a system that targets Black people and other marginalized populations via traffic stops. He recently said he would only serve two or three years if appointed to another five-year term.
However, Castillo and others said they don’t even want Moore to be considered as an option, especially in light of reports over the last couple of years that exposed racial disparities in who police officers in Los Angeles pulled over during traffic stops.
Last spring, LAPD instituted a policy change in which officers wouldn’t conduct traffic stops for minor violations.
Soon after, the LA Department of Transportation and other city agencies started exploring the feasibility of relieving LAPD officers of their traffic enforcement duties. Los Angeles Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mike Bonin, Curren Price, and Herb Wesson introduced a motion to launch this study three years ago, amid protests that erupted in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
The group that’s conducting the feasibility study is scheduled to report their findings in late February.
On Wednesday, Rachel Brashier, Harris-Dawson’s deputy chief of staff, expressed concern about how frequently consultants checked in with the L.A. Council. She said that discussions over the last few months have centered on national and international models for civilian-led traffic stops, constituents’ experiences with police officers, and what she described as an overreliance on LAPD and metro officers.
Brashier also identified a certification that police officers acquire to conduct traffic stops as a possible hurdle in the policy change. She said that, if the responsibility transfers to civilian personnel, they might have to undergo a similar process.
Meanwhile, Anderson’s family, along with the families of Oscar Leon Sanchez and Takar Smith, continue to demand answers about the deaths of their loved ones. Anderson, Sanchez and Smith each died in encounters with LAPD, just days into the new year.
On Jan. 3, Anderson, a 31-year-old District teacher and cousin of BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, succumbed to injuries sustained from officers’ prolonged use of tasers at the scene of a car accident. Around that same time, officers shot and killed Sanchez, 35, in his home while he was experiencing a mental health crisis. On Jan. 2, police officers also shot and killed Smith, 46, under similar circumstances.
For families of Anderson, Sanchez and Smith, the LAPD’s depiction of events have further damaged their deceased loved one’s reputation while perpetuating a narrative that paints the police department as arbiters of justice.
On Wednesday, BLM Grassroots countered right-wing talking points that they said conflates them with the BLM Global Network Foundation.
BLM Grassroots, founded in 2020, differentiates itself from the BLM Global Network Foundation, an entity that BLM Grassroots members say doesn’t represent the original intentions of the movement. Last fall, BLM Grassroots filed a lawsuit alleging that BLM Global Network Foundation siphoned millions of dollars in donations meant for on-the-ground organizing.
On Wednesday, Melina Abdullah, BLM Grassroots member and co-founder of BLM Los Angeles, said that the work to hold the LAPD officers involved in the Anderson, Sanchez and Smith’s deaths accountable has been an organic endeavor, done in concert with the men’s families.
“[Keenan Anderson’s] family has taken to doing their own investigative work and doing what they can to figure out which cops killed their loved one,” Abdullah said. “They shouldn’t have to do that work. Think about the pain of having to watch that video. These demands are from what the family has processed and wants in the name of Keenan Anderson.”